WMO publishes report on the state of the climate in Latin America and the Caribbean – World

Press release number: 22072022

Mega-drought, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall and deforestation have major impacts

Cartagena/Geneva, 22 July 2022 (WMO) – The effects of extreme weather events and climate change, including mega-drought, extreme rainfall, land and sea heat waves and melting glaciers, are affecting America Latin and the Caribbean region, from the Amazon to the Andes and from Pacific and Atlantic waters to the snowy depths of Patagonia.

The State of the Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2021 from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) highlighted the profound impacts on ecosystems, food and water security, human health and poverty.

Deforestation rates were the highest since 2009, a blow to both the environment and climate change mitigation. Andean glaciers have lost more than 30% of their area in less than 50 years. The “central Chile mega drought” is the longest in at least 1,000 years.

“The report shows that hydro-meteorological hazards, including droughts, heat waves, cold waves, tropical cyclones and floods, have unfortunately led to the loss of hundreds of lives, serious damage to agricultural production and infrastructure and human displacement,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.

“Increasing sea level rise and warming oceans are expected to continue to affect coastal livelihoods, tourism, health, food, energy and water security, particularly in small islands and Central American countries. For many Andean cities, melting glaciers represent the loss of an important source of fresh water currently used for domestic purposes, irrigation and hydroelectric power. In South America, the continued degradation of the Amazon rainforest is always highlighted as a major concern for the region but also for the global climate, given the role of the forest in the carbon cycle,” Professor Taalas said.

The report was released at a WMO Regional Technical Conference for South American Countries, hosted by WMO in Cartagena, Colombia on July 22, 2022. This is the second year that the OMM produces this annual regional report, which provides decision-makers with more localized information. to illuminate the action. It comes with an interactive Story Map.

“The worsening of climate change and the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have not only impacted the region’s biodiversity, but have also stalled decades of progress against poverty, food insecurity and the reduction inequality in the region,” said Dr Mario. Cimoli of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

“Addressing these interconnected challenges and their associated impacts will require an interconnected effort. However it is taken, the action must be informed by science. The report on the state of the climate in Latin America and the Caribbean, the second of its kind, is an essential source of scientific information for climate policy and decision-making. ECLAC will continue to play an active role in this dissemination of weather and climate information to foster more partnerships, improved climate services and stronger climate policy in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

Main findings:

  • Temperature: The warming trend continued in 2021 in Latin America and the Caribbean. The average rate of temperature increase was about 0.2°C/decade between 1991 and 2021, compared to 0.1°C/decade between 1961 and 1990.
  • ice cream parlors in the tropical Andes have lost 30% and more of their area since the 1980s, with a negative trend in mass balance of -0.97 m water equivalent per year during the monitoring period 1990-2020. Some glaciers in Peru have lost more than 50% of their area. The retreat of glaciers and the corresponding loss of ice mass have increased the risk of water scarcity for Andean people and ecosystems.
  • sea ​​levels in the region continued to increase at a faster rate than in the world, especially along the Atlantic coast of South America south of the equator (3.52 ± 0.0 mm per year, from 1993 to 2021), and the subtropical North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (3.48 ± 0.1 mm per year, from 1993 to 1991). Sea level rise threatens much of the population, which is concentrated in coastal areas, by contaminating freshwater aquifers, eroding coastlines, flooding low-lying areas and increasing the risk of storm surges.
  • The “central Chile mega drought” continued into 2021, at 13 years to date, this constitutes the longest drought in this region for at least a thousand years, worsening a drying trend and putting Chile at the forefront of the crisis of water in the region. Additionally, a multi-year drought in the Parana-La Plata Basin, the worst since 1944, affected south-central Brazil and parts of Paraguay and Bolivia.
  • The damage caused to agriculture by the drought in the Parana-La Plata basin reduction in agricultural production, including soybeans and corn, affecting world crop markets. Across South America, drought conditions resulted in a -2.6% drop in the 2020-2021 cereal harvest compared to the previous season.
  • The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season had the third-most named storms on record, 21, including seven hurricanes, and was the sixth straight season of above-normal hurricanes in the Atlantic. Some of these storms directly affected the region.
  • Extreme precipitation in 2021, with record values ​​in many places, led to flooding and landslides. There were significant casualties, including hundreds of deaths, tens of thousands of homes destroyed or damaged, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. Floods and landslides in the Brazilian states of Bahia and Minas Gerais resulted in an estimated loss of US$3.1 billion.
  • Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest doubled compared to the 2009-2018 average, reaching its highest level since 2009. 22% more forest area was lost in 2021 compared to 2020.
  • A total of 7.7 million people in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua experienced high levels of food insecurity in 2021, with contributing factors such as the continued impacts of Hurricanes Eta and Iota in late 2020 and the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Andes, northeastern Brazil and northern Central American countries are among the regions most susceptible to climate-related migration and displacement, a phenomenon that has increased over the past 8 years.** Migration and population displacements** have multiple causes. Climate change and associated extreme events are amplifying factors that exacerbate social, economic and environmental drivers.
  • South America is among the regions with the greatest documented need for reinforcement early warning systems. Multi-hazard early warning systems (MHEWS) are essential tools for effective adaptation in areas at risk due to extreme weather, water and climate conditions.

Reasons for Concern and Knowledge Gaps

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report shows how precipitation patterns are changing, temperatures are rising, and some regions are experiencing changes in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as heavy rains.

The two large oceans that border the continent – the Pacific and the Atlantic – are warming and becoming more acidic due to carbon dioxide, while sea levels are also rising.

Unfortunately, greater impact is in store for the region as the atmosphere and ocean continue to change rapidly. Food and water supplies will be disrupted. Towns and cities and the infrastructure needed to support them will come under increasing threat.

Human health and well-being will be affected, as well as natural ecosystems. The Amazon, northeast Brazil, Central America, the Caribbean and parts of Mexico are likely to see increased drought conditions, while hurricane impacts could increase in Central America and the Caribbean. Climate change threatens vital systems in the region, such as glaciers in the Andes, coral reefs in Central America, the Amazon rainforest, which are already approaching critical conditions under the risk of irreversible damage.

In addition to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the LAC region, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction recorded a total of 175 disasters during the period 2020-2022. Of these, 88% have meteorological, climatological and hydrological origins. These risks accounted for 40% of recorded disaster-related deaths and 71% of economic losses.

To reduce the adverse effects of climate-related disasters and support resource management decisions and improved outcomes, climate services, end-to-end early warning systems and sustainable investments are needed but not yet adequately deployed in the LAC region.

It is essential to strengthen the climate services value chain in all its components – including observing systems, data and data management, better forecasts, strengthening of meteorological services, climate scenarios, projections and climate information systems.

The World Meteorological Organization is the authoritative voice of the United Nations system on weather, climate and water

For more information, contact:

Brigitte Perrin, Chief of the Office of Strategic Communications, OMM. Email: [email protected] Mobile phone: +41 79 513 05 12