2015 on track to be the warmest year on record

The world is now nearly 1°C hotter than it was before human beings started burning fossil fuels. While appearing small, that number is a big jump from the 14.3°C average that the world should be. For countries on the equator it has meant an increase of double that – and 1.5 times that for Africa. 

An increase of that magnitude means 2015 will go down in history as the hottest year ever recorded, taking that record from 2014. January and April of this year were the only months to not break their own records.

Since 2000, average global monthly temperature records have been ­broken 32 times. The last time an average monthly cold record was broken was during World War I.

The Met Office – one of a handful of institutions that have reliable temperature records going back more than a century – says most of this temperature increase was down to global warming, but an unusually strong El Niño had given it further impetus. 

This phenomenon warms the Pacific Ocean and causes drought in the southern hemisphere and flooding in the northern hemisphere. In South Africa, El Niño has exacerbated an existing drought and pushed five provinces into being declared drought disaster areas.

Met Office research fellow Professor Chris Folland says “2015 is on track to be the warmest year on record”. 

It has also seen temperature records tumble – on October 27 the small Western Cape town of Vredendal set a global temperature record for that day, hitting 48,4°C.

During spring, dozens of temperature records were broken across the country with a corresponding dearth of rainfall. Highest maximum temperature and highest minimum temperature records were set. 

The South African Weather Service says that this will only get worse in the coming months as El Niño continues to increase temperatures until winter. “Drier and warmer conditions are expected to be extreme … and may worsen the current drought conditions the country is experiencing.” 

2016 to top 2015
The Met Office has predicted that – as a result of El Niño continuing next year – 2016 stands a good chance of setting the record for being the hottest year on record. That means 2014, 2015 and 2016 will stand as the hottest consecutive years on record. 

It predicts that 2016 will be 1.14°C hotter than pre-industrial levels. 

The Paris Agreement – passed last week at the end of COP21 – has as its main goal the task of limiting average global temperature increases by 2°C, with an aspirational goal of limiting those increases to 1.5°C. 

The agreement was slammed by non-government groups for not giving any of the details of how this would be achieved, with research suggesting that to reach the 1.5°C target, the world would have to go fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

Related stories

Climate science’s blind spot for heat waves in southern Africa

The lack of detailed information on extreme heat impacts hinders disaster response and preparedness.

Covid-19 puts green energy in a coma

The pandemic has disrupted governments’ plans to flatline the upward trajectory of global warming

Trump rejects climate ‘prophets of doom’ as Thunberg warns Davos

The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) got under way in the ski resort with an avowed focus on climate change but with starkly different visions over global warming laid bare

The real water crisis: Not understanding what’s needed

The real crisis with water supply is that South Africa doesn't know what it doesn't know

The horror: Tales of climate change

A year after the UN sounded the klaxon, warning of ‘some countries becoming dysfunctional’ thanks to the climate crisis, governments aren’t responding

Climate change and poverty go hand in hand

Crops allow the poor to provide for themselves, but they need support to do so during droughts

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday