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WMO: 2001 Second Warmest Year Since 1860 - 2001-12-19

The World Meteorological Organization, WMO, says the year 2001 was the second warmest since weather statistics started being compiled in 1860. The Geneva-based WMO says nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990, with the warmest of all being 1998.

In its annual climate report, the WMO says there is, unmistakably, a global trend toward warmer temperatures. It says temperatures have risen more than 0.6 degrees Celsius during the past 100 years. And it predicts temperatures will continue to increase.

The scientists attribute the warming temperatures to the so-called greenhouse effect caused by the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the earth's atmosphere.

The director of WMO's World Climate Program, Ken Davidson, says this warming is responsible for the unusual weather conditions around the world in recent years. "The belief of many climatologists today is that the number of extremes and extreme conditions are increasing," he says. "If you remember last year and this year again, you can see that what is discussed over and over is the number of extreme events - extreme heat, the droughts that we have had around the world and then also the floods."

The WMO report records above-average temperatures this past year in North America, Japan and Australia. It says October was the hottest month in England in 343 years. Denmark and Germany also experienced their warmest October in more than 100 years, with temperatures in Germany hitting four degrees Celsius above average.

In contrast, the report shows temperatures dipping to minus 60 degrees Celsius in Siberia and unseasonably cold weather in Northern India and Bolivia.

Jay Lawrimore, a leading climatologist in the United States, says many parts of the world could experience more devastating weather next year if a weather phenomenon called El Nino returns. El Nino causes climatic changes that affect the ocean waters off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador - and, at its most severe, causes extreme flooding, droughts and hurricanes. "Whether or not El Nino will develop into something as strong as it was in 1997-98, remains to be seen. But, in general with El Nino, we will see more storms along the California coast, Southern California, southern part of the U.S.," says Mr. Lawrimore. "We will see dryer conditions. More drought will be likely in Australia, the south Pacific and parts of Brazil. Parts of Southern Africa in El Nino situations will be dryer than normal."

But the World Meteorological Organization's report has one piece of good news: It says the warming of the earth's temperature will be more gradual than originally predicted.