December 17, 2008

2008 among Earth’s warmest since 1850

This year is stacking up to be Earth's 10th warmest in 158 years of record keeping, U.N. officials said Wednesday in New York.

The U.N. Worldwide Meteorological Organization said the combined sea-surface and land-surface air temperature worldwide for 2008 was 0.56 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1961-1990 annual average of 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

The U.N. meteorological agency noted, however, the average was slightly lower than previous years this century.

The organization said La Nina, a weather phenomenon that reduced the warm pool of water in the central and western Pacific Ocean in the second half of 2007, was a factor this year.

The international agency noted this year has been marked by climate extremes, with many parts of the world hit by severe flooding, droughts, hurricanes and cyclones, snow storms, and heat and cold waves.

In the Antarctic, the ozone hole was larger than last year but smaller than 2006's record.

In the Arctic, the average sea ice extent over the month of September was the second-lowest on record after last year. Because ice was thinner in 2008, overall ice volume was less than that in any other year.

The agency also pointed out a dramatic disappearance of nearly one-quarter of the ice shelves on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. The ice now covers one-ninth the area it did a century ago.