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Extreme Weather to Become More Frequent, says Meteorological Group - 2003-08-11

The World Meteorological Organization says it expects extreme weather events, such as the stifling heat wave gripping Europe, to become more frequent because of global climate change.

The World Meteorological Organization calls the record-breaking temperatures in Europe and other parts of the world clearly abnormal. It says extreme weather events set records every year somewhere in the world. But in recent years, it saID, the number of such events has been climbing.

David Carson, WMO's director of the World Climate Research Program, said all the extreme weather conditions occurring now are consistent with global warming and probably are linked with the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

He said, on average, the globe has warmed up by 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past 140 years.

"It is very likely that the decade of the 1990s has been the warmest decade for about the past 1,000 years," Mr. Carson said. "1998 in the northern hemisphere is most likely to have been the warmest year for the past 1,000 years. ... And already, we are seeing that the year globally in 2003 is likely to be up there amongst the contenders for being amongst the few highest years in terms of global temperature."

WMO says different parts of the world are experiencing extreme weather conditions, such as drought, floods and thunderstorms.

In the United States, it says, there were 562 tornados during May. This was an increase of 163 on the previous record.

It says India experienced a record pre-monsoon heat wave, which killed at least 1,400 people.

Climatologists in Switzerland note that the country's glaciers are melting at a faster rate than usual.

As global temperatures continue to rise, Mr. Carson said, the world should expect an increase in the number and frequency of such events.

"Everyone should be worried, I think. Even though we cannot say that we have proof that climate change is taking place as a result of human activity, I think there is a lot of evidence there," he said. "And, that evidence is mounting year by year; and some of the consequences are, as yet, unknown. There could be some surprises in the system. So, yes, I think there is a cause for some real concern."

Mr. Carson says the international community must share in the problems of, and in the eventual solutions for, climate change.