State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

The WMO report on the State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) 2022 was launched in La Habana, Cuba, on 5 July at the XIV International Convention on the Environment and Development. The report highlights that though 2022 was not as warm as 2021, it was 0.55 ± 0.1 °C above the 1961–1990 average and that long-term warming continued in 2022, despite the La Niña cooling effect. The period 1991 – 2022 showed an average warming trend of about 0.2 °C/decade (and higher in Mexico and the Caribbean) – the strongest on record since the start of 30-year climatologies in 1900. Not only are glaciers in Latin America losing mass, but the loss rates over the past decades are among the highest globally. This is heightening water scarcity risks for the Andean population and ecosystems.

The 2021 La Niña conditions evolved to a moderate strength event that prevailed throughout 2022. This marked the third consecutive year of La Niña and the third time such an event, informally referred to as a “triple dip” La Niña, has occurred in the last 50 years (1973–1976 and 1998–2001). This La Niña event was associated with higher air temperatures and precipitation deficits over central and northern Mexico, prolonged drought conditions over much of south-eastern South America, and increased rainfall in parts of Central America and northern South America and in the Amazon region.

The report provided evidence of continued the sea levels rise, including at a higher rise rate in the South Atlantic and the subtropical North Atlantic compared to the global mean, threatening the continental coastal areas of several LAC countries and the Small-Island Developing States (SIDS).

Extreme weather and climate events severely impacted LAC region in 2022. The majority of reported fatalities associated with extreme events were related to storms and flooding. Heavy rainfall triggered floods and landslides, leading to hundreds of fatalities and billions of US dollars in economic losses across the region. In Brazil, two consecutive heavy rain-related disasters devastated Petropolis in the state of Rio de Janeiro, leading to more than 230 deaths. In Colombia, floods and landslides resulted in more than 250 reported fatalities. In some countries and territories of the Caribbean and Central America, Hurricanes Fiona, Ian, Julia and Lisa caused severe damage. For example, Hurricane Fiona – an extremely long-lasting tropical cyclone –made several landfalls in eastern and northern Caribbean islands. In Puerto Rico, estimated damages of US$ 2.5 billion made Fiona the island’s third costliest hurricane on record, after Maria (2017) and Georges (1998).

In other parts of the LAC region prolonged drought conditions negatively impacted several economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, transportation and water supply. The extreme heat and dry conditions also fueled an exceptional wildfire season. Argentina and Paraguay recorded an increase of 283% and 258% respectively in the number of hotspots detected compared to the 2001–2021 average, and January to March wildfire carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were the highest in the last 20 years.

The top priority areas for climate change adaptation and mitigation in the region are agriculture and food security, and energy. The report highlights that though climate services have demonstrably improved agricultural production and reduced food insecurity in the region, such services are still lagging, including climate projections and tailored products for the sectors. Renewable energy capacity increased by 33% between 2015 and 2020. However, the pace needs to accelerate to meet increasing demand. In addition to the significant hydropower potential in the LAC region, there are untapped solar and wind resources – these only accounted for 16% of total renewable energy generation in 2020. There is an unexploited potential for National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) to assist with energy transition and addressing the emerging needs of this sector in the region.

The LAC region also experiences considerable early warning challenges. For example, in South America only 60% of people, according to data from 2020, are covered by Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS). The population must be made more aware of climate-related risks, and early warning systems must employ improved multidisciplinary mechanisms. More efforts are needed to help decision-making by demonstrating the costs and benefits of strengthening MHEWS and climate services for climate adaptation.

State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2022 was the collaborative effort of more than 30 NMHSs and Regional Climate Centres (RCCs) as well as United Nations agencies, international and regional organizations and research centres, and more than 60 scientists and experts. It provides the status of key climate indicators and the latest data and information on extreme weather and climate events, impacts, risks and policy from United Nations agencies. It addresses specific physical science, socioeconomic and policy aspects that are relevant to the LAC domain and responds to Members’ needs in the fields of climate monitoring, climate change and climate services. The present report also makes use of the latest findings presented in the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

We invite readers to download and read the full report available in the WMO Library: State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) 2022.

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