December 30, 2008
2009 Could Be Amongst The Warmest Years On Record
British climate scientists said on Tuesday that the coming year is likely to be one of the top-five warmest on record.
Despite the continued cooling of huge areas of the Pacific Ocean "” a phenomenon known as La Nina"”the average global temperature for 2009 is expected to be more than 0.4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.
According to researchers at the Met Office, that would make it the warmest year since 2005, as there is also a growing probability of record temperatures after next year.
The warmest year on record is currently 1998, which saw average temperatures of 14.52 degrees Celsius - well above the 1961-1990 long-term average of 14 degrees Celsius.
The weather that year was strongly influenced by El Nino, an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific.
There are numerous theories as to what triggers the mechanisms that cause an El Nino or La Nina event, but scientists agree that they are playing an increasingly important role in global weather patterns.
One important factor is the strength of the prevailing trade winds that blow from east to west across the equatorial Pacific.
Professor Chris Folland at the Met Office Hadley Center said further warming to record levels is likely once a moderate El Nino develops.
"Phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina have a significant influence on global surface temperature."
Global warming had not gone away despite the fact that 2009, like the year just gone, would not break records, said Professor Phil Jones, director of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia.
"What matters is the underlying rate of warming," he said.
The average temperature over 2001-2007 was 14.44 degrees Celsius, 0.21 degrees Celsius warmer than corresponding values for 1991-2000, Jones said.
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