2010 ties 2005 for warmest year on record: US

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The Independent Online

Last year tied with 2005 as the warmest year on record for global surface temperature, US government scientists said in a report on Wednesday that offered the latest data on climate change.

The Earth in 2010 experienced temperatures higher than the 20th century average for the 34th year in a row, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

Overall, 2010 and 2005 were 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (0.62 Celsius) above the 20th century average when taking a combination of land and water surface temperatures across the world, it said.

Those two years were also the highest in temperature since record-keeping began in 1880.

"If the warming trend continues, as is expected, if greenhouse gases continue to increase, the 2010 record will not stand for long," said James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

Last year was the wettest on record, NOAA said citing Global Historical Climatology Network which made the calculation based on global average precipitation, even though regional patterns varied widely.

When it came to hurricanes and storms, the Pacific Ocean saw the fewest number of hurricanes and named storms, three and seven respectively, since the 1960s.

But the Atlantic Ocean told a different story, with 12 hurricanes and 19 named storms, which include tropical storms and depressions, marking the second highest number of hurricanes on record and third highest for storms.

The analysis also tracked weather changes that contributed to massive floods in Pakistan and a heat wave in Russia, saying an "unusually strong jet stream" from June to August was to blame.

"The jet stream remained locked in place for weeks, bringing an unprecedented two-month heat wave to Russia and contributing to devastating floods in Pakistan at the end of July," it said.

Expert Bob Ward at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science said the US data shows proof of climate change.

"These new figures show unequivocally that the Earth is warming and its temperature is at record levels," Ward said.

Last year's data "also showed that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached 390 parts per million, its highest level for at least 800,000 years and almost 40 per cent higher than the level before the start of the Industrial Revolution when humans started to burn fossil fuels in increasing amounts," he said.

"The evidence is overwhelming that human activities are driving climate change."

In the United States alone, 2010 marked the 14th year in a row with higher annual average temperatures when compared to the long term average since 1895, NOAA said.

Record snowfalls at the start of the year in the northeast including Washington and Philadelphia were part of a winter pattern driven by El Nino and the Arctic Oscillation, NOAA said.

A separate report by Canada's Environment Ministry said that last year was the warmest in Canada since it began keeping meteorological records 63 years ago.

NASA analysts said the shrinking sea ice in the Arctic may have made winters in Europe and Canada warmer than usual.

"Winter weather patterns are notoriously chaotic, and the GISS analysis finds seven of the last 10 European winters warmer than the average from 1951 to 1980," NASA said in a statement.

"The unusual cold in the past two winters has caused scientists to begin to speculate about a potential connection to sea ice changes," it said.

"Arctic sea ice acts like a blanket, insulating the atmosphere from the ocean's heat. Take away that blanket, and the heat can escape into the atmosphere, increasing local surface temperatures. Regions in northeast Canada were more than 18 degrees (F) warmer than normal in December.

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