September 2020 Was Warmest On Record, Arctic Sea Reaches Second Lowest Extent

September 2020 was the warmest September on record globally, according to scientists at the European Union’s Earth observation program Copernicus. The agency also revealed that the Arctic sea ice is at its second lowest extent since satellite records began in 1979.

September temperatures were well above average in many regions across the globe, including off the coast of northern Siberia, in the middle East, in parts of South America and Australia, with the exception of eastern tropical Pacific. The month was 0.05 C warmer than September 2019, the previous warmest September on record. 

Scientists also said that the temperatures for 2020 are showing a similar pattern to the year 2016 that was the warmest calendar year recorded to date. Whether 2020 surpasses that record would depend on other climate patterns such as La Niña – complex weather patterns resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

In the Siberian Arctic, temperatures remained warmer than average in September, continuing a warm spell that has affected different parts of the vast region since early spring. This in turn has affected the Arctic sea ice.

Many densely populated and low-resource countries like India are recording rising temperatures and worsening temperature extremes which disproportionately affect the poorest without the means to cope. And this is set to have an economic impact.

“Given the current adaptation deficit in terms of access to adequate indoor space cooling and large number of outdoor workers and mobility of people in India, large scale health impact and labour productivity decline is envisaged,” said Joyashree Roy, who researches economics of pollution and climate change, among other subjects, and is currently with the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.

Arctic ice at second lowest extent

Copernicus found that the Arctic sea ice extent for September was the second lowest recorded after September 2012. The sea ice extent has declined markedly since 1979 when satellite observations began. The agency said the Antarctic sea ice extent was slightly above average.

September is the month when the ice reaches its annual minimum before building up again to reach the maximum, typically around the month of March. 

“In 2020, there was an unusually rapid decline in Arctic sea ice extent during June and July, in the same region where above average temperatures were recorded, preconditioning the sea ice minimum to be particularly low this year,” said Carlo Buontempo, director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S). “The combination of record temperatures and low Arctic sea ice in 2020 highlight the importance of improved and more comprehensive monitoring in a region warming faster than anywhere else in the world.”

Synergies between sustainable development goals & climate mitigation

Currently countries are focussed on Covid-19 recovery packages but experts believe that job creation, sustainable energy development and protecting human health are all synergistic. “We have shown in the IPCC special report on 1.5 C global warming that there are more synergies than tradeoffs between climate mitigation actions and sustainable development goals,” said Roy who is also the coordinating lead author from India for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body set up to assess climate science. “Global cooperation for mitigation is undeniably the highest priority now.”

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