29 April, 2021

9 Min Read

The Global Climate 2020

The Global Climate 2020

GS-Paper-3: Environment – UPSC PRELIMS – Mains Application

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its annual State of the Global Climate for 2020 on April 20, 2021. Irrespective of the widespread surmise that lockdowns and shutdowns to curb the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic would lower emissions and reduce the impact on climate, the report has scary findings.

According to the report:

Extreme weather combined with COVID-19 in a double blow for millions of people in 2020. However, the pandemic-related economic slowdown failed to put a brake on climate change drivers and accelerating impacts.

Key Points

  • This annual report is released by the World Meteorological Organization.
  • It has found that the lockdowns and shutdowns to curb the Covid-19 pandemic would lower emissions and reduce the impact on climate.
  • Double blow - According to the report, extreme weather combined with Covid-19 in a double blow for millions of people in 2020.
  • However, the pandemic-related economic slowdown failed to put a brake on climate change drivers and accelerating impacts.
  • Temperature - It reiterates that 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, despite a cooling La Niña event.
  • The global average temperature was about 1.2° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record. 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record.
  • The WMO report listed five key indicators of irreversible changes in the global climate - Greenhouse gases, oceans, sea-level rise, the Arctic and the Antarctica.

Five Key Indicators

  • Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) - Despite the economic slowdown due to the pandemic, emission of major GHGs increased in 2019 and 2020. It will be higher in 2021.
  • Oceans - In 2020, the oceans had the highest heat content on record. Over 80% of the ocean area experienced at least one marine heatwave.
  • The percentage of the ocean that experienced strong marine heat waves (45%) was greater than that which experienced moderate marine heat waves (28%).
  • Sea-level rise - Since record-taking started in 1993 using the satellite altimeter, sea-level has been rising partly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.
  • However, there was a blip in summer of 2020 that recorded a drop in sea level, which is due to the La Niña induced cooling.
  • The Arctic - The 2020 Arctic sea-ice extent minimum after the summer melt was 3.74 million square kilometre, marking only the second time on record that it shrank to less than 4 million sq km.
  • In the Siberian Arctic, temperatures in 2020 were more than 3°C above average, with a record temperature of 38°C in the town of Verkhoyansk.
  • The Antarctica - The Antarctic sea-ice extent remained close to the long-term average. However, the Antarctic ice sheet has exhibited a strong mass loss trend since the late 1990s.
  • This trend accelerated around 2005 due to the increasing flow rates of major glaciers in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula.


According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD)’s State of the Climate Report, the year 2020 was the eighth warmest since India started keeping records in 1901. The State of the Climate Report looks at temperature and rainfall trends annually.

Eighth Warmest Year 2020:

Average Temperature:

During the year, the annual average temperature in the country was 0.29 degree Celsius (°C) above normal (29-year average from 1981-2010).

However, it was much lower than 2016 (+0.71 degrees Celsius), which remains the warmest ever year the country has recorded since 1901.

Such temperature trends were reported despite the cooling effect of La Nina, a global weather pattern that prevailed in 2020 and is linked to substantially below normal temperatures in winter.

La Nina typically has a cooling effect on global temperatures, but this is now offset by global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions.

As a result, La Nina years now are warmer than years with El Niño events of the past.

El Nino and La Nina are the extreme phases of the El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.

ENSO is a periodic fluctuation in sea surface temperature and the air pressure of the overlying atmosphere across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It has a major influence on weather and climate patterns such as heavy rains, floods and drought.

El Niño has a warming influence on global temperatures, whilst La Nina has the opposite effect.

Source: DTH

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