News / Science & Technology

2013 is Seventh Hottest Year, Rising Seas Worsen Typhoon

FILE - World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary-general Michel Jarraud (R) gestures  during a press conference in Geneva, Nov. 28, 2012.
FILE - World Meteorological Organization (WMO) secretary-general Michel Jarraud (R) gestures during a press conference in Geneva, Nov. 28, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
— A new United Nations report said 2013 is likely to be one of the 10 warmest years since modern records began in 1850. 

This report is being released to coincide with the U.N. climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland.  Scientists at the World Meteorological Organization make no secret they hope the report will influence governments attending the conference to take strong action to curb climate change.

The WMO report provides a snapshot of regional and national temperatures.  It goes into detail on precipitation, floods, droughts, tropical cyclones, ice cover and sea level.  

WMO Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud said the data indicates an evident warming trend. “This decade, the last decade was the warmest decade on record and what we call cold years now are actually warmer than any warm year before ’98,” he said. 

Jarraud notes atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases reached new highs in 2012.  He said they are expected to reach unprecedented levels again this year, which means the world will continue to get warmer.

The report said surface temperatures are only part of the climate change story.  It says the so-called water cycle of droughts, floods and extreme precipitation also is having a strong impact on this phenomenon.

WMO Chief Jarraud said higher sea levels are making coastal populations more vulnerable to storm surges, as the Philippines experienced from Typhoon Haiyan.

“Near the Philippines, the sea level rise over the last 20 years was probably of the order of three to four times bigger than it was globally. The factor of sea level rise itself can be attributed to a large extent to the climate change, which has occurred.  So, in other words, the cyclone itself it is a difficult question, but definitely because of the higher sea level the damage has been more than what it would have been 100 years before under similar wind conditions,” Jarraud stated. 

During the first nine months of 2013, the report finds most of the world’s land areas had above-average temperatures, most notably in Australia, which suffered from a very intense heat wave.  North America, northeastern South America, northern Africa, and much of Eurasia also recorded high temperatures.

The report said record-breaking precipitation occurred in many places in North America, while the southern African countries of Angola and Namibia were gripped by one of the worst droughts in the past 30 years.  But it said above-average rainfall fell over most of central and western parts of the Sahel. 

The WMO report notes Arctic Sea ice recovered slightly after the dramatic and unprecedented melt in 2012, but is still at one of the lowest levels on record.

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