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Baseline for ‘normal’ weather needs to be updated due to climate change, says UN agency



The World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) Commission for Climatology has said the current baselines for weather are out of date and must be updated more frequently due to the impacts of global warming.

Currently, the official existing baseline is based on climate averages of 1961-1990 and is only updated once every 30 years.

During this time weather variables such as temperature rises and rainfall are measured and ‘climate normals’ are created from the averages. These averages can be calculated at local, national and global levels.

At the moment the baseline is not due to be updated until 2021 and the Commission for Climatology is worried industries could be making decisions on information that is out of date.

Using data from 30 years ago and with increasingly variable weather this means inaccurate baselines could lead to inefficient river flood defenses or plant crops being harmed.

The UN agency is calling for a new global standard in which baselines are updated every 10 years. This would make information more up-to-date and would standardise forecast data as some weather services have adopted new baselines, which causes confusion and inconsistencies.

“For water resources, agriculture and energy, the old averages no longer reflect the current realities,” Omar Baddour, head of the data management applications at the WMO, told Reuters.

Many industries are feeling the impacts of climate change and in particular the tea industry. Projects in Kenya are helping farmers adapt to the effects of climate change and ensure they have sustainable methods to protect their livelihoods.

The proposal will be put forward to the World Meteorological Congress who will meet in May next year. They Commission will also suggest keeping the 1961-1990 model as a reference for long-term climate change.

Last year a leaked document by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found climate scientists are 95% sure global warming is manmade.

Photo: US Geological Survey

Further reading:

Climate scientists ‘95% sure’ that global warming is manmade, says leaked IPCC document

Climate change project helps thousands in Kenyan tea industry

UN: 13 of 14 warmest years on record were in 21st century

UN agency reports on ‘decade of climate extremes’

Greenhouse gas at record high – 141% increase on pre-industrial levels