2009: Hottest year since 1850
Copenhagen - This year is likely to rank as one of the "10 warmest" since 1850, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Tuesday in a report providing further evidence that the world is heating up.
The report by the Geneva-based organisation also found that the current decade was already warmer than the 1990s, which were in turn warmer than the 1980s.
"Large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record," the report said.
And while a few weeks remain of 2009, data collected by the WMO between January and October suggests that average global temperatures were already 0.44% Centigrade above the annual average for the 1961-1990 reference period.
"Warming is not uniform - there will still be cold winters and summers, but what we are talking about is a trend," WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud said at the launch of the WMO report at the UN climate change conference underway in Copenhagen.
"Cold waves will become less frequent, and heat waves more frequent," he added.
While above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the continents, the United States and Canada experienced conditions that were cooler than average, the UN agency said.
China had its "third-warmest year in the last 50 years", Jarraud said, also mentioning "heatwaves in much of central and southern Europe" over the summer.
Australia also had its third-warmest year while in Africa, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Namibia were hit by floods affecting nearly 1 million people. El Salvador was also hit by intense storms, while severe flooding plighted India after a weak monsoon season.
The report also found that the extent of the Arctic sea ice in the summer was the third-lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979, trailing only 2007 and 2008, the lowest and second-lowest on record.
India suffered an "extreme heatwave" in May that caused 150 deaths, while a month later, northern China was hit by daily maximum temperatures above 40°C and endured its "worst drought in five decades".
Food shortages were also experienced in East Africa, where Kenya has seen a 40% drop in its maize harvest.
The preliminary WMO information for 2009 was based on data from land-based weather and climate stations, ships and buoys, as well as satellites.
A full report is due in March, the agency said.