2012 represents the ninth warmest year since records begun

Caribbean ravaged by tropical storm Raphael

Climate change is to blame for fatal storms that killed hundreds as well as a record low in arctic sea ice, a report by the United Nations has warned.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report on global climate in 2012 tracks movements in temperatures, precipitation, extreme events, tropical cyclones, and sea ice extent.

It confirmed that 2012 was the ninth warmest year since records begun in 1850 and the 27th consecutive year that the global land and ocean temperatures were above the 1961–1990 average. The years 2001 to 2012 were all among the top 13 warmest years on record.

It said the major weather events of 2012 – Hurricane Sandy Typhoon Bopha – are linked to climate change.

The report also highlighted that Arctic sea ice was at an all-time low – 18% less than the previous record low of 2007.

WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud said: “The year 2012 saw many other extremes as well, such as droughts and tropical cyclones. Natural climate variability has always resulted in such extremes, but the physical characteristics of extreme weather and climate events are being increasingly shaped by climate change.

“For example, because global sea levels are now about 20 cm higher than they were in 1880, storms such as Hurricane Sandy are bringing more coastal flooding than they would have otherwise.”

The report also found that rainfall across the globe increased and was slightly above the 1961-1990 long-term average; and Greenland ice sheet melted dramatically in early July.

Jarraud added: “It is vital that we continue to invest in the observations and research that will improve our knowledge about climate variability and climate change.

“We need to understand how much of the extra heat captured by greenhouse gases is being stored in the oceans and the consequences this brings in terms of ocean acidification and other impacts. We need to know more about the temporary cooling effects of pollution and other aerosols emitted into the atmosphere. We also need a better understanding of the changing behaviour of extreme weather and climate events as a consequence of global warming, as well as the need to assist countries in the most affected areas to better manage climate-related risks with improved climate early warning and climate watch systems.”