Friday, March 16, 2007

Warming up

World breaks temperature records

Staff and agencies

Guardian March 16, 2007

The world experienced its warmest period on record during this year's northern hemisphere winter, the US government said today.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report said the globally averaged combined land and sea surface temperature for December to February was the highest since records began in 1880.

During the three-month period, known as boreal winter, temperatures were above average worldwide, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and areas in central United States.

The global average was 0.72C higher than the previous record in 2004, but the report did not provide an absolute temperature for the period. An NOAA spokesman told Reuters news agency that the deviation from the mean was what was important.

A significant contributing factor to the record warmth was an El NiƱo weather pattern, a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean. It was particularly strong in January - the warmest January ever - but the ocean surface had since begun to cool.

In the northern hemisphere, the combined land and water temperature was the warmest ever at 0.91C, while the southern hemisphere, where it was summer, recorded a temperature 0.49C above average, which was the fourth warmest.

The global temperature of land surface alone during this period was also the warmest on record, while the ocean surface temperature was the equal second warmest, with the equatorial Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and the South Indian oceans all recording warmer than average temperatures.

During the past century, global temperatures had increased at about 0.06C each decade, but the increase had been three times larger since 1976, at about 0.18C per decade, the report said.
The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995.

The report comes just over a month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said global warming had very likely been caused by human actions and was so severe it would continue for centuries. Most scientists attribute the rising temperatures to so-called greenhouse gases, which build up in the atmosphere and trap heat from the sun.

Report in full: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2007/feb/feb07.html

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