LONDON-Scientists are “almost certain” that the average temperatures from 2010-2019 make it the warmest decade on record.

Provisional figures released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) suggest this year is on course to be the second or third warmest year ever.

If those numbers hold, 2015-2019 would end up being the warmest five-year period in the record.

This “exceptional” global heat is driven by greenhouse gas emissions, the WMO says.

What is climate change?

The organisation’s State of the Global Climate report for 2019 covers the year up to October, when the global mean temperature for the period was 1.1 degrees C above the “baseline” level in 1850.

Many parts of the world experienced unusual levels of warmth this year. South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania were warmer than the recent average, while many parts of North America were colder than usual.

Going nowhere fast: the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and “abnormal” weather

Two major heat waves hit Europe in June and July this year, with a new national record of 46C set in France on 28 June. New national records were also set in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the UK. In Australia, the mean summer temperature was the highest on record by almost a degree.

Wildfire activity in South America this year was the highest since 2010.

The WMO clearly links the record temperatures seen over the past decade to ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases, from human activities such as driving cars, cutting down forests and burning coal for energy.

In 2018, concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide all reached new record highs.

The WMO says the warming experienced over the past decade is taking its toll on the natural world. The ice is melting at both poles and sea level rise has accelerated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993.

Much of the heat generated by greenhouse gas emissions is going into the oceans, says the WMO. The waters are more acidic as a result and marine heat waves are becoming more common.

As well as hurting nature, the increased heat is also affecting humans, with heat waves posing a particular risk to the elderly.

Once in a century events are becoming more common, says the WMO’s secretary-general

“On a day-to-day basis, the impacts of climate change play out through extreme and ‘abnormal’ weather. And, once again in 2019, weather and climate-related risks hit hard,” said the WMO’s secretary-general Petteri Taalas.

“Heat waves and floods which used to be ‘once in a century’ events are becoming more regular occurrences. Countries ranging from the Bahamas to Japan to Mozambique suffered the effect of devastating tropical cyclones. Wildfires swept through the Arctic and Australia,” Mr Taalas continued.

Since the 1980s, every successive decade has been warmer than the one that preceded it. Other scientists reacted to the release of the report with concern.