The World Meteorological Organization said 2008 was the 10th warmest year on record. Its year-end report found 2008 was marked by the second-lowest level of Arctic ice cover. It said all of the 10 warmest years have occurred in the past 12 years. So, it noted, the trend for warming is going on.
The WMO report said there was unusually warm weather in many parts of Europe, and Scandinavian countries enjoyed the warmest winter season on record. It said the Arctic Sea ice dropped to its second-lowest level during the melt season since satellite measurements began in 1979.
It said nearly one-quarter of the massive ancient ice shelves on Ellesmere Island disappeared, underscoring the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic. It said the melt strongly reinforces the 30-year downward trend in Arctic sea ice extent.
WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said climate extremes, including devastating floods, severe and persistent droughts, snowstorms, heat waves and cold waves, were recorded in many parts of the world.
"If I have to identify one extreme event in 2008, I think we should highlight the Cyclone Nargis, which hit Myanmar, killing nearly 80,000 people ... causing also a big humanitarian challenge. The 2008 hurricane season was also quite unusual and it caused widespread damage in the Caribbean and in Central America and USA," said Jarraud.
For the first time on record, Jarraud said six consecutive tropical cyclones made landfall in USA. Three major cyclones hit Cuba, and Haiti was hit by cyclone after cyclone, killing more than 500 people.
The report describes the monsoon season in South Asia as very strong, killing more than 2,000 people and rendering more than 10 million homeless. It said long-term drought persisted in southeastern Australia, with Victoria having its 9th driest year on record.
But WMO Data Management Application Division chief Omar Baddour said sub-Saharan Africa did not experience drought this year.
"What we are noticing here for the second year, sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing severe flooding. And, it was really unusual to not report large-scale drought in sub-Saharan Africa this year. So, this has two meanings. One is it is good information from agricultural perspective. But, it caused also humanitarian consequences," he said.
The report said sub-Saharan Africa, including West and East Africa, was affected by heavy rains, which caused the worst-ever recorded flooding in Zimbabwe and affected more than 300,000 people in West Africa during the monsoon season.