Weather Experts: Year 2000 Continues Global Warming Trend

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 21, 2000 (ENS) - The global climate continues to be warmer than normal, the World Meteorological Organization said in its year end analysis. The year 2000 has continued the run of warm years in spite of the persistent cooling influence of the tropical Pacific La Nia.

The global average surface temperature for the year 2000 is likely to be about 0.32C above the climatological average for the period 1961-1990, the agency said.

This is similar to 1999, which was the 5th warmest year in the past 140 years, according to records maintained by members of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The warmer years were 1998, 1997, 1995 and 1990.

This preliminary information for 2000 is based on observations up to the end of November from a network of ships, buoys and land based weather stations. The data are collected and distributed continually by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of the WMO member countries.

The ten warmest years have all occurred since 1983, with eight of these occurring since 1990.

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This image shows the winter temperature trend in the Arctic from 1966 to 1995. Over the 30 year period shown, average winter temperatures in central Siberia warmed by as much as 4C. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center)
As a new century begins, the global mean temperature is 0.6C above those at the start of the 20th century.

The year 2000 will be the 22nd consecutive year with the global mean surface temperature above the 1961-1990 normal.

Precipitation patterns throughout the tropics were dominated by typical La Nia Pacific Ocean cooling conditions during the first half and at the end of the year.

Indonesia, the tropical Indian Ocean and western tropical Pacific all experienced much more rain than normal during the two periods. Greater than normal rainfall during the summer monsoon season fell across southern Asia, but the central tropical Pacific experienced virtually no rainfall at all.

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Typhoon Sam as it nears the west coast of Australia on December 8, 2000 (Image courtesy Rick Kohrs (UW/SSEC)
Australia, northeast South America and southern Africa experienced greater than normal precipitation during the first half and at the end of the year.

By contrast, La Nia contributed to below normal precipitation over equatorial east Africa and along the Gulf Coast of the United States.

Severe Weather Events

During the year 2000, the Atlantic experienced an above average number of hurricanes and tropical storms - 15, the average is 10.

The Pacific Ocean experienced only 22 storms, which is below the average of approximately 28.

Several of these storms produced extreme amounts of precipitation, flooding and damage. Hurricanes Keith and Gordon caused severe damage in Central America and tropical storm Leslie produced excessive rainfall in Florida.

In the Pacific, the most devastating cyclones of the year were Eline, Gloria and Hudah which struck Madagascar, Mozambique and parts of southern Africa causing severe flooding and loss of life.

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Northeast India still bears scars from September floods, but hundreds of thousands of people are rebuilding their lives with the help of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) (Photo courtesy IFRC)
Severe flooding occurred in southern Switzerland and north-eastern Italy in October, in Colombia from June to August, and in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam from monsoon rainfall, all resulting in loss of life and severe property damage. More than 10 million people were affected in India alone with over 650 deaths.

Flooding and mudslides also caused damage and loss of life in Central and South America in May and June. Torrential rains triggered mudslides killing 13 people in Guatemala. In Nicaragua, the Rama River rose 4.5 meters and spilled over its banks on June 21, flooding most of Rama City, a town of 10,000 people.

In Australia, cyclone Steve caused major damage and record flooding in Australia in late February. It was one of the wettest ever January-April periods, with record rainfall and flooding. Some parts of western Queensland received over 400 millimeters of rain in February, nearly twice their normal annual rainfall. Heavy rain in November caused widespread flooding over central and northwest New South Wales and southwest Queensland affecting one third of New South Wales.

Heat Waves, Drought and Fires

Major droughts affected much of southeastern Europe, the Middle East, and central Asia through northern China. Especially hard hit were Bulgaria, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of China. This was the worst drought in over 30 years in the Islamic Republic of Iran destroying crops and killing livestock.

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Fire in the Bitterroot National Forest, Montana, blazed from July 31 to October 3, 2000 (Photo by Karen Wattenmaker courtesy U.S. Forest Service)
In North America, months of above average temperature coincided with below normal precipitation through northern Mexico and much of the southern and western regions of the United States leading to one of the worst wildfire seasons in the past 50 years. Severe to extreme drought covered 36 percent of the United States by the end of August.

A scorching heat wave gripped much of southern Europe during June and July, breaking many century old records and contributing to 1,400 wildfires. The heat wave claimed numerous lives across the region as temperatures exceeded 43C in locations across Turkey, Greece, Romania and Italy.

In Bulgaria, 100 year records for daily maximum temperature were broken at more than 75 percent of all observation stations on July 5.

The third consecutive year of below normal rainfall in the Horn of Africa countries exacerbated existing drought conditions over much of the area, resulting in severe food shortages. Tens of millions of people were affected by this drought. Especially hard hit were Ethiopia, and parts of Kenya, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

Cold Waves

Severe cold conditions affected large parts of China and Mongolia from January through February. Over one million people were affected with economic loss estimated at over US$30 million. In January and February severe cold conditions affected part of India resulting in over 300 deaths.

In May, much of western Russia, centred at the Volga region, experienced a severe cold spell with temperatures 4-5C below normal. In South America, Paraguay experienced the lowest minimum temperatures ever recorded at nearly all stations during June and July.

In England, the year 2000 is likely to be among the 20 warmest years in the past 342 years of observations. Norway will likely record the third warmest year since measurements started in 1866.

In the United States of America, the year is expected to rank between the 7th and 12th warmest since 1895. Records in Canada indicate that 2000 will be the 6th warmest, at 1.1C above normal.

Japan recorded its 5th warmest year in its 103 year record.

After six months of generally cooler than average temperatures, unusual warmth developed across parts of Australia in July and continued into the Southern Hemisphere spring. Visitors to the Olympic Games in Sydney experienced an exceptionally warm September as temperatures averaged more than 5C above normal along a broad belt of central and eastern Australia.

Rainfall Records Set

April 2000 was the wettest April in the 235 year monthly England and Wales precipitation series. October and November 2000 each had the highest ever daily England and Wales precipitation recorded in that calendar month in a 70 year record. rain

Portsmouth, UK in the rain, autumn 2000. (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy Freefoto.com)
Sustained above average rainfall from September through November 2000 led to major flooding in many parts of England and Wales. It was the wettest autumn in the 235 year record and also the wettest three month period on record.

The first thunderstorm on record moved through Barrow, Alaska, on June 20, 2000. Thunderstorms are more typical of warmer climates.

In early November, 692 mm of rain fell at Hilo, Hawaii, in one 24 hour period, breaking the previous 24 hour record of 566 mm.

More extensive, updated information will be made available in the annual WMO Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2000, to be published in late March 2001.

This information was issued in collaboration with the Hadley Centre of the Met Office, UK, and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK. In the United States: the National Climatic Data Centre in Asheville; the Climate Prediction Centre in Washington; NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies; NASA/Marshal Space Flight Centre; University of Alabama in Huntsville; and the International Research Institute in New York contributed to this report.

Other contributing WMO Member countries were Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Germany, Iceland, India, Japan, Mauritius, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden and Zimbabwe.