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2009 Global Temperature Fifth Warmest on Record
GENEVA, Switzerland, December 8, 2009 (ENS) - The year 2009 is projected to rank as the fifth warmest on record since instrumental climate records began in 1850, according to a new report issued today by the World Meteorological Organization.

The global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for the period January–October 2009 is estimated at 0.44°Celsius (1.01°Fahrenheit) above the long-term average of 14°C (57.2°F).

The decade of the 2000s was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s, which in turn was warmer than the 1980s, the WMO said.

Women carry water across arid Niger. (Photo by Christoph Rupprecht)

Given the current figures, large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record. Extreme warm events were more frequent and intense in southern South America, Australia and southern Asia.

Land surface temperatures through October were the fifth warmest on record, at 1.44 degree F above the 20th century average, said the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospherica Administration, NOAA, which maintains one of the three complementary datasets on which global recordkeeping is based.

This year, above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the continents. Only North America experienced conditions that were cooler than average.

Ocean surface temperatures through October were the sixth warmest on record, at 0.85 degree F above the 20th century average.

Cooler La Niña conditions across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific shifted into a warm-phase El Niño conditions in June. During June–September 2009, sea surface temperatures were generally about 1°C warmer than the long-term average across that region. During October, almost all indicators of El Niño became stronger, the WMO reports.

"Arctic sea ice has declined dramatically over the past 30 years at least, with the most extreme decline seen in the summer melt season, the WMO said in its report.

Arctic sea ice extent during the 2009 melt season was 5.10 million square kilometers, which is the third-lowest on record after the 2007 record (4.3 million km2) and 2008 (4.67 million km2), since satellite measurements began in 1979. The past five years have produced the lowest sea ice extents on record.

Climate extremes, including devastating floods, severe droughts, snowstorms, heatwaves and cold waves, were recorded in many parts of the world.

Asia

China had the third-warmest year since 1951; for some regions 2009 was the warmest year.

China suffered its worst drought in five decades. Water levels in parts of the Gan River and Xiangjiang River were the lowest in the past 50 years. A heatwave hit northern China during June, with daily maximum temperatures above 40°C; historical maximum temperature records were broken for the summer in some locations.

Three days after Typhoon Ketsana hit Manila, residential areas were still awash. (Photo by Pia Facultad courtesy World Food Programme)

In August, Typhoon Morakot swept across Taiwan and caused more than 400 deaths and severe damage to agriculture and infrastructure. Hundreds of roads and bridges on the island were destroyed by floods.

Northern China was severely affected by a snowstorm during the first half of November as part of a strong cold wave. These snowfalls were one month earlier than normal, breaking local weather records.

Heavy rainfall associated with typhoons Ketsana and Parma was observed across the south of Luzon Island in the Philippines in September and October. The resulting floods caused more than 900 deaths.

In India, the poor monsoon season caused severe drought impacts in 40 percent of the districts. The northwestern and northeastern parts of the country were badly affected. It was reported to be one of the weakest monsoon seasons since 1972. India had an extreme heatwave event during May, which caused 150 deaths.

Southern India recorded severe flooding due to incessant rain in late September and the first week of October, and more than 250 lives were lost.

In the western North Pacific, 22 named tropical storms have been recorded so far, and 13 of them reached the intensity of typhoon, compared to the long-term averages of 27 and 14, respectively.

Africa

In East Africa, drought led to massive food shortages. In Kenya the drought was responsible for severe damage to livestock and a 40 percent decline in the maize harvest.

In northern Africa, intense rainfall in September caused devastating damage to infrastructure in several parts of northern Africa, including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. In a similar pattern, the highest September rainfall recorded in 80 years produced severe flash floods in northwestern Turkey.

In western Africa, heavy and intense rainfall in September caused flooding that affected more than 100,000 people. The worst flooding was observed in Burkina Faso, where 263 mm of rain was recorded in less than 12 hours, breaking a record set 90 years ago.

Further south on the continent, nearly one million people in Zambia and Namibia were affected by torrential rain that caused rivers to overflow their banks, flooding homes and cropland.

The Americas

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season closed with the fewest named storms and hurricanes since 1997, due to the unfavourable cyclonic conditions caused in part by El Niño. A total of nine named tropical storms were formed, including three hurricanes, two of which were major hurricanes at Category 3 strength or higher.

In Canada, Ontario experienced a record number of witnessed tornadoes and a record number of related fatalities. Canadian avalanches were almost double the yearly average for the past decade and the worst since 2002–2003. A total of 25 deaths made it one of the deadliest seasons.

In late July, many cities across Canada recorded their warmest daily temperatures. Vancouver and Victoria set new records, reaching 34.4°C and 35.0°C, respectively.

Farther north, Alaska had the second-warmest July on record.

The northern plains region of the United States was affected by record flooding during the month of March. A major winter storm in late March established new 24-hour snowfall records for three states: Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

In the United States, the western region was the most affected by a moderate-to-exceptional drought by the end of October. Yet, the total area affected by drought in the United States during October was the second-smallest value recorded in this decade. A fast start to the U.S. wildfire season slowed by mid-year. The nationwide acreage burned by wildfire declined to below average by year's end.

As a whole, the United States recorded the wettest October in 115 years, and October was a very cold month across large parts of the country.

Drought dries a lake near Buenos Aires, Argentina (Photo by Cynthia Del Guidice)

Mexico experienced severe-to-exceptional drought conditions by the month of September.

In Central America, an intense storm in El Salvador in November, associated in part with Hurricane Ida, produced deadly floods and landslides that claimed 192 lives.

In South America, the austral autumn (March to May) was extremely warm in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil. With daily temperatures ranging from 30°C to 40°C, several records were broken during this season. By the end of October, an extreme weather situation affected north and central Argentina, producing unusually high temperatures (above 40°C).

Drought in Central Argentina caused severe damage to agriculture, livestock and water resources at the end of October, with very high temperatures reported.

During the beginning of the year heavy rainfall was observed in Colombia, producing landslides and widespread floods. Northeast Brazil was severely affected by heavy rainfall and flooding in April and May.

Later, in July, the worst snowstorm in 15 years hit the southern part of Argentina. During the austral spring, particularly in November, continuous heavy and intense rainfall was seen in northeastern Argentina, southern Brazil and Uruguay, causing flooding in many places and affecting more than 15,000 people. Total monthly precipitation records were broken, with rainfall exceeding more than 500 mm in many locations.

Australia

To date, Australia has had the third-warmest year on record. The year 2009 was marked by three exceptional heatwaves, which affected southeastern Australia in January, February and November, and subtropical eastern Australia in August.

The January and February heatwaves were associated with disastrous bushfires that caused more than 173 fatalities.

The passage of another year without any sustained above-normal rainfall has seen long-term rainfall deficits continuing in southeastern Australia. Sustained dry conditions in the Murray-Darling Basin have now continued for nine years.

In the Australian region, there were 10 cyclone systems during this season, with Hamish the most significant one, although it did not make landfall. It reached category 5 intensity and was the most intense cyclone observed off the eastern Queensland coast since 1918.

Europe

The year 2009 was again warmer than the 1961–1990 average all over Europe and the Middle East.

The year started with a mild January in northern Europe and large parts of Eurasia, while western and central Europe were colder than normal. Russia experienced colder than average temperatures in February.

At the end of January, Spain and France were severely affected by winter storm Klaus, the worst extra-tropical storm in a decade, with winds similar to a category 3 hurricane. Another winter storm combined with heavy snowfall caused severe damage in western Europe and resulted in serious disruptions of air and rail traffic in several countries.

In late spring and summer a large number of thunderstorms with heavy rain, hail and tornadoes caused local flooding and significant damage across Germany.

Spring was very warm in Europe with Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria reporting temperature anomalies of more than +5°C, breaking the previous records for in April in several locations.

A dry July in Andalusia, Spain (Photo by Ullispain)

The European summer was also warmer than the long-term average, particularly over the southern regions.

Spain had the third-warmest summer, with hotter summers reported only in 2003 and 2005. Italy recorded a strong heatwave in July, with maximum temperatures above 40°C, and some local temperatures reaching 45°C.

A heatwave at the beginning of July affected the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Germany, and some stations in Norway experienced new maximum temperature records.

In September, several parts of the Mediterranean region were affected by extreme rainfall events. Total rainfall of more than 300 mm was recorded in less than 48 hours in one location of southeastern Spain, where the long-term average for total annual precipitation does not exceed 450 mm.

A very cold October was reported in Scandinavia, with mean temperature anomalies ranging from -2°C to -4°C.

November brought severe flooding to northern areas of the United Kingdom, and a new 24-hour precipitation record was set for the country.

Following more than 50 days of wet weather, Met Office forecasters are predicting drier conditions across the country later this week. Met Office Chief Forecaster, Mike Trigger, said Monday, “Heavy rain or showers have fallen on most days for well over a month. The forecast of drier conditions towards the end of the week should allow river levels to subside."

Data Collection and Analysis

This preliminary information for 2009 is based on climate data from networks of land-based weather and climate stations, ships and buoys, as well as satellites.

Adegu David gathers data at the meteorological weather station in Kisumu, Kenya. (Photo courtesy DFID)

The data are continuously collected and disseminated by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of the 189 members of the World Meteorological Organization and several collaborating research institutions.

The data continuously feed three main depository global climate data and analysis centers, which develop and maintain homogeneous global climate datasets based on peer-reviewed methodologies.

The WMO global temperature analysis is thus based on three complementary datasets. One is the combined dataset maintained by both the Hadley Centre of the UK Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom. Another dataset is maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the third one is from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The content of this WMO statement is verified and peer-reviewed by meterological experts from other international, regional and national climate institutions and centers before its publication.

More complete data for the remainder of the year 2009 will be analyzed at the beginning of 2010 to update the current assessment. Final updates and figures for 2009 will be published in March 2010 in the annual WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.



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