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State of the Global Climate 2020


Recently, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its annual State of the Global Climate for 2020 ahead of the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, hosted by the US.


GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Climate change, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Government Interventions and Policies for management of Climate Change)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the State of the Global Climate for 2020 report
  2. About the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

Highlights of the State of the Global Climate for 2020 report

Global Warming

  • 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 other two warmest years are 2016 and 2019.
  • The six years since 2015 have been the warmest on record & 2011-2020 was the warmest decade on record.
  • In 2019, the oceans had the highest heat content on record. In 2020, it has broken this record further. Over 80% of the ocean area experienced at least one marine heatwave in 2020. [A marine heatwave is defined when seawater temperatures exceed a seasonally-varying threshold for at least 5 consecutive days.]
  • The percentage of the ocean that experienced “strong” marine heat waves (45%) was greater than that which experienced “moderate” marine heat waves (28%).
  • Since record-taking started in 1993 using the satellite altimeter, sea-level has been rising. It is due to the La Niña induced cooling.
  • Sea level has recently been rising at a higher rate partly due to the increased melting of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.


  • Emission of major greenhouse gases increased in 2019 and 2020 and it will be higher in 2021.
  • Concentrations of the major greenhouse gases in the air continued to increase in 2019 and 2020.
  • Globally, averaged mole fractions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have already exceeded 410 parts per million (ppm), and if the CO2 concentration follows the same pattern as in previous years, it could reach or exceed 414 ppm in 2021.

The Arctic and the Antarctica

  • In 2020, the Arctic sea-ice extent came down to second lowest on record.
  • The 2020 minimum extent was 3.74 million square kilometre, marking only the second time (after 2012) on record that it shrank to less than 4 million sq km.
  • In a large region of the Siberian Arctic, temperatures in 2020 were more than 3°C above average.
  • 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, and currently, Antarctica loses approximately 175 to 225 Gigaton per year, due to the increasing flow rates of major glaciers in West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Extreme Weather Events

  • Along with the pandemic, people across the world struggled to survive as they faced extreme weather in the form of storms, cyclones, heavy rainfall and record heat.
  • Response and recovery to people hit by cyclones, storms and similar extreme weather was constrained throughout the pandemic in 2020.
  • India experienced one of its wettest monsoons since 1994, with a seasonal surplus of 9% that led to severe floods and landslides.
  • Cyclone Amphan, which hit Kolkata in May 2020, has been named as the costliest tropical cyclone for the North Indian Ocean region that brought about an estimated loss of USD 14 billion.

About the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

  • World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) is an intergovernmental organisation that originated from the International Meteorological Organisation (IMO) and became a specialised agency of the UN in 1951.
  • The United Nations Economic and Social Council is the parent organization of the UN’s WMO.
  • The WMO has 193 Member States and 6 Member Territories and it is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Functions of the World Meteorological Organisation can be stated as:

  1. Coordinating activities of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services in the member countries.
  2. Providing a guarantee of publishing the statistics and observation of Meteorology and Hydrology.
  3. The WMO also encourages R&D in Meteorology and Hydrology.
  4. Predicting the locust swarms and transport of various pollutants is another responsibility of the WMO.

WMO’s Publications/Reports

  • The World Meteorological Organisation publishes an annual report on the status of the World Climate. This report will provide detailed information on temperatures at the local, national and global levels along with extreme weather events.
  • The WMO report also provides information on long term climate change indicators. These indicators include the rise in sea levels, the extent of sea ice and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Other reports published by the WMO are:

  1. Status of World Climate
  2. Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

December 2023