Earth’s 13 hottest years all occurred from ’97

2011-11-30 00:00

THIS year is one of the warmest in the world’s history, it has also witnessed the lowest Arctic sea ice volume and seen record highs of greenhouse gases.

So far 2011 is the world’s tenth warmest year, said R.D.J. Lengoasa, deputy secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), speaking at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban.

“And it is higher than any previous year with a La Niña event, which has a cooling effect, as opposed to El Niño, which has a warming influence.

“So far the world’s 13 warmest years have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997,” he said. “The science is solid and proves unequivocally that the world is getting warmer and the warming is due to human activities.

“Concentrations of greenhouse gases have reached record new highs,” he said. “They are rapidly approaching levels indicating a two-to-2,4 degree Centigrade rise in average global temperatures, which scientists believe could trigger far reaching and irreversible changes in our Earth biosphere and oceans.”

Lengoasa was releasing the provisional annual WMO statement on the Status of the Global Climate, which provides a picture of the planet for this year based on data recorded from January to October. A final statement on the whole year will be issued in early 2012.

“This is the tenth warmest year since the start of records in 1850.”

Lengoasa said the La Niña event, which developed in the tropical Pacific in 2010 and continued until May 2011, was behind the droughts in East Africa, the Central Pacific Islands and the southern United States as well as flood events in Africa, Australia and South-East Asia.

He said the WMO findings confirmed those released recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which reported an increase in extreme weather events with higher temperatures being recorded more often, heavy rains and increased wind speed of cyclones.

The coverage of sea ice in the Arctic is the second lowest on record while the sea ice volume is at a new record low.

“Vast areas in the North-West and North-East Passages were ice-free during the northern summer.”

hereas the Arctic is a solid ice pack, the Antarctic is a land mass. But here there is also cause for concern over the “calving” of large areas of ice from the edges of the continent.

These, combined with the loss of Arctic ice cover and the melting of glaciers (especially in Greenland)are leading to a rise in sea levels.

Lengoasa said urgent action is needed to avert future climate change. “Temperatures continue to rise,” he said. “We are still on an upward moving trend.”

The WMO findings were endorsed by the South African Weather Service.

“Our research shows an increase in the frequency of weather events,” said Linda Makuleni, CEO of South African Weather Service. “There have been an increasing number of high temperature days and a drop in low frost days.”

She said there had also been a change in rainfall patterns. “This has seen severe droughts in such areas as the Eastern Cape while in other areas we have seen severe floods. Our research indicates that these trends are going to continue.”

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