A World Wildlife Fund report released last week said that 2005 is on track to be the warmest year on record, surpassing the record set in the 1998 El Niño year. By October of this year, NASA reported that the global average temperature was already 0.06ºC (0.1ºF) warmer than 1998.
In September of 2005, the Arctic sea ice extent (area covered) was the least ever recorded by satellites. Continuing a 9.8 percent per decade decline of perennial sea ice cover, which is the thicker ice that normally does not disappear in the summer. The present decline makes the current sea ice extent about 1.3 million km2 (500,000 square miles or roughly the size of Peru) smaller than the historic average (1979).
Waters in the Caribbean were hotter for longer than ever before measured by regional monitoring systems. This resulted in extensive bleaching throughout the region, from Colombia to the Florida Keys. Only this years record breaking hurricane activity limited additional bleaching.
The WWF report, 2°C is Too Much, said that the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season broke five records. In fact, although hurricane season officially ended on the last day of November, Hurricane Epsilon was still blowing in the Atlantic into December.
The hurricane season saw 26 named storms, exceeding the official name list and moving through the first five letters of the Greek alphabet. The United States National Hurricane Center predicted a large year but estimated 18-21 storms.
Fourteen storms became hurricanes, meaning that winds exceeded 119 km per hour (74 mph). The previous record was 12 hurricanes in one year.
This year had five category five storms with winds over 249 kph (155 mph), the most ever reported. Additionally the report said that four storms made landfall in the United States, another record.
Figures are still not final for the 2005 season, however damage from Hurricane Katrina alone is already estimated at more than $100 billion.
A drought in the Amazon this year is a multidecadal if not century record. The western United States also continued its multiyear drought.
Time to Take Action!
Events like these, focus more attention on our need to take decisive action on climate change. Limiting climate change to less than a 2ºC (3.6ºF) global average increase is key to limiting dangerous climate responses such as these which punctuated 2005.