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Concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increased at "record-breaking" speed last year, according to the World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released Monday.

According to the report, concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400.00 parts per million the year prior. This acceleration was due to a strong El Niño event—which triggered droughts and reduced the capacity of forests, vegetation and the oceans to absorb CO2—as well as human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels.

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Iceberg in Antarctica. Photo credit: Max Pixel

Global temperatures are on the rise again as 2016 has been marked as the hottest on record. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which published its annual assessment of the climate today, said the unusually warm weather has continued into 2017.

Global warming, experts say, is largely driven by human activity and the release of carbon dioxide emissions. But an El Niño weather pattern consisting of naturally warm weather in the equatorial Pacific region is also a contributor.

"Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system. We are now in truly uncharted territory," World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson said in a release.

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The World Meteorological Organization announced Wednesday that Antarctica hit a new record high recorded temperature of 63.5 degrees F.

The record, set at an Argentine research base in 2015 and just confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization, breezes past the previous record of 59 degrees.

Meanwhile, real time data released from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showed only 2.131 million square kilometers of sea ice surrounding the continent on Feb. 28—about 159,000 square kilometers less than the record low set in 1997. The Antarctic ice sheet contains 90 percent of the world's freshwater, which would raise sea levels by 200 feet if it were to melt.

For a deeper dive:

Temps: Reuters, USA Today, Gizmodo

Sea ice: Washington Post

Commentary: Forbes, Marshall Shepherd column

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

Record-warm months dominated in 2016, including: January, February, March, April, May, June, July and August, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Photo credit: NOAA

Climate scientists are all but assured that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded. If that sounds familiar, 2014 and 2015 were also the hottest years since record-keeping began in 1880.

"2016 will break the global temperature record that was set in 2015, which broke the record that was set in 2014," climate change scientist Noah S. Diffenbaugh, professor of the Department of Earth System Science at Stanford University, told The Mercury News.

A number of experts and government organizations had already predicted that 2016 was Earth's hottest year in recorded history.

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced that El Nino drove much of the record warmth during the first two-thirds of 2016, while a weak La Nina cooled the globe down during the past few months. However, the period between January to November of 2016 was the warmest such period on record.

"The average global temperature was 1.69 degrees F above the average of 57.2 degrees, surpassing the record set in 2015 by 0.13 degrees F," the agency stated.

Recent headlines from publications around the world—from Houston, Texas to Singapore—have declared extreme heat. Meanwhile, the Arctic in particular saw "a meteoric rise" in October heat that contributed to the region's record low sea ice extent for the month, which clocked in at 28.5 percent below the 1981-2010 average.

According to The Mercury News, both NOAA and NASA are expected to announce that 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded on Jan. 18, two days before the presidential inauguration of notorious climate change denier Donald Trump.

"This reality is not going to simply disappear by denying that it exists, or by dismissing it as a hoax, or by claiming that it is too complicated to understand or to address," Diffenbaugh added.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released an analysis in November which linked human-induced climate change to extreme heat. In fact, some studies cited by the WMO determined that greenhouse gas emissions raise the probability of extreme heat events as much as 10 times or more.

"With 2016 set to be the warmest year on record, it is urgent that all the world intensify efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouses gases," Richard Seager, a leading climate scientist at Columbia University, told The Mercury News.

Meanwhile, the president-elect has plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, axe President Obama's signature Clean Power Plan that reduces emissions from power plants, and has nominated an entire cabinet of fossil fuel "puppets" and executives.

Although Trump claimed he's keeping an "open mind" about climate change, during an interview with Fox News Sunday, incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said that the president-elect's default position on climate change is that "most of it is a bunch of bunk."

There is growing evidence that man-made climate change is contributing to individual extreme weather and climate events, according to the latest analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Global five-year average temperature anomalies (relative to 1961–1990) for 2011– 2015. World Meteorological Organization

The report, released at COP22 in Marrakech, finds that greenhouse gas emissions raise the probability of extreme heat events as much as 10 times or more. The report also noted that 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record with 2016 on track to become the hottest year on record.

Among the worst extremes, a 2011-12 drought and famine in the Horn of Africa killed more than 250,000 people and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines killed 7,800 in 2013, the WMO said.

"The Paris agreement aims at limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius and pursuing efforts towards 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a press release.

"The effects of climate change have been consistently visible on the global scale since the 1980s: rising global temperature, both over land and in the ocean; sea-level rise; and the widespread melting of ice," Taalas said. "It has increased the risks of extreme events such as heatwaves, drought, record rainfall and damaging floods."

For a deeper dive:

AP, Reuters, Politico Pro, Mashable, Huffington Post, BusinessGreen

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

The rate at which Arctic sea ice is shrinking due to climate change continues to make headlines as scientists monitor and predict what is "becoming a journey into uncharted territory."

Recent data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center revealed sea ice in the Arctic hit its summer low point, tying 2007 for the second lowest extent on record.

With global temperatures on the rise and already at levels not seen in 100,000 years, melting Arctic sea ice is only expected to get worse as temperatures there are warming at least twice as fast as the global average. Mark Serreze, the director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, said he wouldn't be surprised if the Arctic were "essentially ice free" by 2030.

"Dramatic and unprecedented warming in the Arctic is driving sea level rise, affecting weather patterns around the world and may trigger even more changes in the climate system," according to the World Meteorological Organization.

As part of his climate change documentary, Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio visited the Arctic with National Geographic explorer-in-residence Dr. Enric Sala to see for himself what is happening in the region.

While walking with DiCaprio on the edge of the sea ice in the high Canadian Arctic, Sala told him that "we will not be able to stand on the frozen sea anymore in about 25 years."

Scientific projections, he said, show that by 2040 there's going to be almost no sea ice left in the entire Arctic.

Sala sat down with National Geographic to answer five questions regarding the critical state of Earth's sea ice, and what it means for us. Watch here:

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In an unusually stark warning, a leading international scientific body said the Arctic climate is changing so fast that researchers are struggling to keep up. The changes happening there, it said, are affecting the weather worldwide.

As ice melts, the liquid water collects in depressions on the surface and deepens them, forming these melt ponds in the Arctic. These fresh water ponds are separated from the salty sea below and around it.NASA

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said:

"Dramatic and unprecedented warming in the Arctic is driving sea level rise, affecting weather patterns around the world and may trigger even more changes in the climate system.

"The rate of change is challenging the current scientific capacity to monitor and predict what is becoming a journey into uncharted territory."

The WMO is the United Nations' main agency responsible for weather, climate and water.

"The Arctic is a principal, global driver of the climate system and is undergoing an unprecedented rate of change with consequences far beyond its boundaries," David Grimes, WMO president, said.

Arctic Collaboration

"The changes in the Arctic are serving as a global indicator—like 'a canary in the coal mine'—and are happening at a much faster rate than we would have expected," Grimes added.

He was speaking before addressing the first White House Science Ministerial meeting in Washington DC, held to develop international collaboration on Arctic science.

Climate change is causing global average temperatures to rise: 2014, 2015 and the first eight months of 2016 have all been record-breakers. The Arctic is warming at least twice as fast as the global average, in places even faster: the Canadian town of Inuvik has warmed by almost 4°C since 1948, about four times more than the global figure.

The increasing loss of Arctic sea ice is threatening polar bears across their range; melting sea ice is affecting the Arctic climate in a feedback loop; and scientists expect melting permafrost will release more carbon dioxide and methane.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said the Arctic changes had also been a factor in unusual winter weather patterns in North America and Europe. He said the thawing of the permafrost could release vast quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"These are part of the vicious circles of climate change which are the subject of intense scientific research," Taalas said.

Despite its certainty that the Arctic is in trouble, the WMO said it is hard to establish the implications of what is happening there. The Arctic makes up about 4 percent of the Earth's surface, but the WMO said it is "one of the most data-sparse regions in the world because of its remoteness and previous inaccessibility. Lack of data and forecasts in the Arctic does impact on the quality of weather forecasts in other parts of the world."

That's a worry which is echoed at the other end of the planet. A study led by Dr. Julie Jones, from the department of geography at the University of Sheffield, UK, says limited data on Antarctica's climate is making it difficult for researchers to disentangle changes caused by human activity from natural climate fluctuations.

It was only when regular satellite observations began in 1979 that measurement of surface climate over the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean became possible, says the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

To gain a longer view, Dr. Jones and her colleagues used a compilation of records from natural archives such as ice cores from the Antarctic ice sheet, which show how the region's climate has changed over the last 200 years.

Separating Signals

They confirmed that human-induced changes have caused the belt of prevailing westerly winds over the Southern Ocean to shift towards Antarctica.

But they conclude that for other changes, including regional warming and sea ice changes, the observations since 1979 are not yet long enough for the signal of human activity to be clearly separated from the strong natural variability.

The shift in the westerly winds has moved rainfall away from southern Australia. This year is set to be the country's hottest on record.

"The Antarctic climate is like a giant jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces still missing," Dr. Jones said. "There are some parts of the picture which are clear, particularly the way that climate change is causing westerly winds to shift southwards, but there are still huge gaps that we need to fill in order to fully understand how much human activity is changing weather in the region."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.

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