Extreme Weather In 2013 Caused By Man-Made Climate Change: UN Report

By Ben Wolford on March 24, 2014 12:55 PM EDT

Typhoon Haiyan is among the natural disasters caused by man-made climate change, according to a United Nations report. (Photo: Reuters)

Typhoon Haiyan is among the natural disasters caused by man-made climate change, according to a United Nations report. (Photo: Reuters)

A year of extreme weather, from the widest-ever tornado to the most powerful typhoon to hit land, was no coincidence, the United Nations weather agency reported Monday. Citing man-made climate change as the cause, the World Meteorological Organization's annual climate statement said 2013 was riddled with unnatural global extremes.

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"We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise — as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. The report also confirmed that 2013 has tied 2007 as the sixth-warmest year on record, with an average global land and sea temperature of 58.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

Jarraud acknowledged that nature unleashed volcanic eruptions and El Niño and La Niña events that "influenced temperatures or caused disasters like droughts and floods." But he concluded that "many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change," including the acceleration of ocean warming and record levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The WMO, considered the authority on global weather, issued a long list of specific weather events it says were caused by climate change. These included the landfall of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; unprecedented snowfall in Israel, Jordan, and Syria; heat waves in the global south; drought in southern Africa and northeastern Brazil; and heavy rain in Sudan, Somalia, India, and northeast China.

In the United States, the WMO cited a 2.6-miles-wide tornado — the largest ever — that struck El Reno, Okla., and killed 18 people on May 31. It also referenced the deep freeze that beset the U.S. and Europe in December and preceded the January polar vortex episodes.

As part of the report, the WMO included a peer-reviewed case study on record warmth in Australia's 2012-2013 summer. Scientists compared nine climate models to determine whether the phenomenon could have happened without the contribution of man-made greenhouse gases. They concluded the intense heat was about five times as likely to happen with human influence than without it. "The record hot calendar year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases," they wrote, according to the news release.

The last 13 years have been warmer than all other previous years except one, making the first decade of the 21st century the Earth's hottest on record, the WMO report states. The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has reported that 2013 was a record year for the release of carbon pollution — the prime cause of global greenhouse effect — into the atmosphere. The panel, which is presently meeting in Japan, fears global temperatures could rise nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

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