December 3, 2010

2010 Among 3 Hottest Years On Record: UN

The year 2010 is on track to be one of the three hottest years on record, capping off a record-setting decade that provides further evidence that the planet is warming, said the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on Thursday during climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

"2010 is almost certain to be in the top three warmest years on record," said WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud during a press conference.

"The decade from 2001 to 2010 has set a new record, it will be the warmest decade ever since we have records," he added.

Although Europeans and some Americans may believe 2010 was a particularly chilly year, their unusually cold winters were more than offset by warmer temperatures in Canada, Africa and the Indian subcontinent, Jarraud explained.

Reliable statistical records for global weather date from 1850.  Since that time, only 1998 and 2005 have been warmer than 2010, and only slightly so.

The UN's provisional assessment -- a consensus of temperature data from four meteorological institutions -- was published on the fourth day of a 12-day meeting in Cancun under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Jarraud said he hoped the snapshot would help guide policymakers negotiating a post-2012 global warming agreement.

"This is the (scientific) foundation to say where we are now, these are the facts," the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

"Of course, if nothing is done, this curve will go on increasing and increasing, it will go up and up."

The benchmark for warming is 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit (14 degrees Celsius), the global combined surface temperatures of the air and sea from 1961-1990.  Temperatures were 0.95 F (0.53 C) above that level in 1998, and exceeded it by 0.93 F (0.52 C) in 2005.   This year, there was an increase of 0.99 F (0.55 C) between January and October, although two more months of monitoring remain.  Official figures for 2010 will be issued next February.

From 2001 to 2010, global temperatures averaged 0.82 F (0.46 C) above the 1960-1990 benchmark, something some scientists attribute to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Although the WMO data alone does not identify man-made greenhouse gases as the cause for rising temperatures, Jarraud said this theory is confirmed separately by other research into concentrations of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

The long-term trend, he said, suggests the planet is warming in ways that cannot be explained by nature, and is almost certainly caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

"If you don't include the human emissions you cannot reproduce what you observe," he said.

"That's why we feel that we can attribute a significant part of what we observe to man-made emissions."

The report underscored a wide range of extreme weather events in 2010, including a scorching summer in Russia that killed thousands and exceptionally mild winters in the Arctic.

Russia's record-setting summer heatwave was linked to extreme monsoon rainfall in Pakistan that affected millions of people, the WMO report said.

Greenland and most of Canada also experienced high temperatures, as did northern Africa, south Asia and western China, which saw its lowest rainfalls on record.  Some of these areas had annual mean temperatures of 5.4 F (3 C) or more above normal.

Parts of the Amazon basin were hard hit by drought in the later part of the year, while the Rio Negro, a major tributary to the Amazon, fell to its lowest level on record, the WMO said.

Meanwhile, many parts of the mid-latitude northern hemisphere had an abnormally cold winter.  Ireland and Scotland, for example, experienced their coldest winter since 1962-1963, while many parts of northern and central Europe had their coldest winter since the 1980s or 1970s, the WMO said.

Typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones are set to have the least active year since 1979.  Just 65 tropical storms have been observed so far this year, with only 35 having reached hurricane-force intensity.  This compares with the long-term average of 85 and 44, respectively.

Arctic sea ice in the summer of 2010 reached the third lowest extent since records began being kept, the WMO said.

"We are extremely concerned," said Jarraud, adding that levels of sea ice are "certainly a measure of global warming,"

The Cancun conference is set to end on December 10 with a meeting of dozens of ministers and some 25 heads of state.  The attendees hope to reach an agreement on a narrow series of measures to help poor nations prepare for changing climate conditions, and to establish an organization to govern $30 billion in emergency climate funds through 2012, rising to $100 billion a year by 2020.


On the Net: