COP22: Copernicus ‘Europe’s eyes on earth’ observes a year of extremes

Temperatures, wildfires and CO2 acceleration monitored throughout 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016 —

  • January to October 2016 the warmest period on record
  • Wildfires linked to high temperatures and dry conditions
  • CO2 concentrations pass and remain above 400 ppm
On 4 November 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, but despite this historic achievement the heat is still on to keep the rise in global temperature below 2°C.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and Atmosphere Monitoring service (CAMS), part of the EU’s Copernicus earth observation programme, recorded, re-analysed and released significant climatic information throughout 2016, noting the effect and impact of a still changing climate.

Warmest months on record

The Copernicus Climate Change Service has provided the earliest analysis of monthly temperatures since its launch in 2015. Global average temperatures have been at unprecedented levels month after month since August 2015. They peaked in February 2016 at more than 0.8ºC above the 1981-2010 norm, around 1.5ºC higher than rather more uncertain estimates for around the beginning of the industrial era.

Temperatures have remained well-above the 1981-2010 average since February, by about 0.6ºC for the past three months. The January-October average for 2016 is more than 0.2ºC warmer globally than for the same period in 2015, making it virtually certain that 2016 will succeed 2015 as the warmest year of the industrial era. Locally, the January-October average reached more than 5ºC above the 1981-2010 norm in north-western Russia.

Global atmospheric temperature in 2016 was influenced by a transient El Niño event, by sea-surface temperatures that were more generally warmer than they have been in recent years, and by near-record-low sea-ice cover. Both natural variability and changing abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols resulting from human activity have left their mark on the global temperature record. The comprehensive data that is being provided by the Copernicus Services play a vital role in interpreting the temperature record in coming years when stock is taken of the progress being made under the Paris Agreement.

Intense wildfires in Siberia and Canada

Significant global wildfire activity was monitored by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) throughout 2016, including the destructive fires around Fort McMurray, Canada in May and extensive wildfires across Siberia, associated with high surface temperatures, during June and July.

Increased July surface air temperatures were most pronounced across northern Russia and western Siberia, where warmer and, crucially, drier environmental conditions fuelled the wildfire activity.

Acceleration of CO2

The growth of CO2 in the atmosphere has quickened since last years' Paris agreement, crossing again the 400 ppm level globally. For the first year CO2 levels did not dip below 400 ppm during the seasonal September/October low.

Director of ECMWF’s Copernicus Services Juan Garcés de Marcilla said: “The Paris Agreement is a historical agreement in the battle against climate change, yet the extreme temperatures of 2016 and passing the 400 parts per million level of atmospheric carbon dioxide are timely reminders that the fight must continue. With the publically available data from C3S and CAMS, decision makers from across the world can be helped by the most recent climate information to make the right choices to prevent further warming.”

About the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS)

CS3 and CAMS data offers an insight into the past, current and future of the global climate, assisting governments to protect citizens from climate-related hazards like drought or floods while helping societal and business sectors improve climate mitigation and adaptation strategies.

The wealth of Copernicus data will be the basis for generating information, supporting adaptation and mitigation policies in a number of sectors such as water management, agriculture, tourism, insurance, transport, infrastructure and disaster risk reduction.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service produces a consistent, comprehensive and credible description of the past, current and future climate and is the European Union’s contribution to the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Global Framework of Climate Services.
The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service consists of a complex set of systems which collect data from multiple sources like earth observation satellites and ground stations as well as airborne and sea-borne sensors. It provides high-resolution simulations of atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global wildfire emissions on a daily basis.


Copernicus is the European Commission’s flagship earth observation programme that delivers freely accessible operational data and information services. It provides users with reliable and up-to-date information through a set of services related to environmental and security issues.


CS3 and CAMS are run by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission. ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation, producing and disseminating numerical weather predictions to its 34 member and co-operating states.

Academic and environmental institutions from across Europe, including the National Meteorological Services, play an integral role in making Copernicus a success.


Graphic 1: Average surface air temperature difference from 1981-2010 conditions, for January to October 2016. Source: ERA-Interim (Credit: ECMWF, Copernicus Climate Change Service).
Graphic 2: Mean atmospheric CO2 values forecasted over Europe for 19 October 2016 reaching levels consistently above 400 ppm. The data are reported as a 'dry air mole fraction', expressed as parts per million (ppm) and defined as the number of molecules of carbon dioxide divided by the number of all molecules in air, including CO2 itself, after water vapor has been removed (Credit: ECMWF, Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service).