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World Headed for 10th Warmest Year on Record, UN Agency Says

November 29, 2011

Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) -- This year will probably be the 10th warmest on record, and the hottest featuring the La Nina phenomenon that brings cooler waters to the surface of the Pacific Ocean, the World Meteorological Organization said.

The global average temperature through October was about 0.41 of a degree Celsius (0.74 of a degree Fahrenheit) above the average of 14 degrees from 1961 to 1990, the WMO said today in a statement released at the United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa. That means the 13 warmest years on record have been in the last 15 years, the organization said.

The findings match scientific evidence showing warming temperatures over the past few decades, said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the U.K. Met Office, whose own temperature series feeds into the WMO data. The finding, along with a surge in greenhouse gas emissions, adds to pressure on delegates in Durban to step up the fight against climate change.

“There is a consistent pattern of a changing climate, with the last decade warmer than the previous one, and that decade warmer than the one before,” Stott said in a telephone interview from Exeter, England. “There’s clearly a warming trend. That’s supported by other indicators such as disappearing Arctic sea ice, melting glaciers and rising sea levels.”

Arctic sea ice shrank to its second-lowest extent and lowest volume on record in 2011, according to the WMO.

Durban Downpour

Yesterday, after violent thunderstorms drenched Durban and flooded the basement of the conference center where envoys are meeting, the UN diplomat leading talks said extreme weather is being exacerbated by rising temperatures resulting from greenhouse gas emissions.

“This kind of unseasonable events are the types of abnormal events that we will be seeing more and more due to climate change,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework on Climate Change.

Delegates are divided about how best to curb the fossil- fuel emissions that are blamed for global warming.

Developing nations such as India and China are pushing for an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which limited pollution from industrial nations only through 2012. The European Union, U.S., Canada, Australia, Russia and Japan want a broader agreement requiring cuts from India and China, which have become two of the three biggest polluters since Kyoto was agreed to in 1997.

“The Kyoto Protocol is the cornerstone of the climate regime,” Chinese lead negotiator Su Wei told delegates today in Durban. “We call upon the developed country parties to rise up to historic responsibility and take the lead for ambitious, robust commitments.”

Greenhouse Gas Record

Emissions are still rising. The WMO on Nov. 21 said that the concentration in the atmosphere of the three main man-made greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, rose to records in 2010.

“Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached new highs,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in today’s statement. “They are very rapidly approaching levels consistent with a 2-degree 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.”

The Met Office today also released its own preliminary temperature data for this year, ranking 2011 as the 11th warmest year. Its series dates to 1850.

Cooler 2011

The WMO temperature is 0.12 degree cooler than the average for 2010, which the organization logged as the warmest on record. The drop from 2010 doesn’t mean the threat of global warming is diminishing, according to the Met Office.

Stott said a “strong and persistent La Nina” had helped reduce temperatures this year. La Nina is a periodic upwelling of cooler water to the surface of the Pacific Ocean that affects weather patterns around the world. Years that start with a La Nina phenomenon typically are 0.1 degree to 0.15 degrees cooler than the years that precede or follow them, the WMO said.

Until this year, the warmest year that started with a La Nina phenomenon had been 2008, which was 0.36 degrees warmer than the long-term average, the WMO said.

The Met Office series is one of three main ones used by the WMO to process its annual figures. The two other data sets are compiled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Those two series show 2011 will be the 11th and ninth warmest years, respectively, the Met Office said.

--Editors: Reed Landberg, Will Wade

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at

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