Another hot year

2011 is one of the warmest on record

Pakistan was the country worst hit by flooding in 2010 [REUTERS]

As the Climate Change Conference continues in Durban, it’s revealed just how hot 2011 has been.

According to the UK Met Office, it’s set to be the tenth warmest on record. The US based NASA agency is expecting it to be the eleventh. Whether it’s tenth or eleventh, it’s clearly yet another very warm year.

This is despite the fact that for the last 18 months the climate has been dominated by La Nina, the name given to a slight cooling of the surface water of the Pacific. This would normally be expected to give a cooler value of global temperature.

The high ranking of this year’s global temperature isn’t a one-off either. Of the thirteen warmest years on record, all of them have all occurred in the last 15 years. Even if you’re a climate change skeptic, there is no arguing the fact that the world is getting progressively warmer.

This progressive warming is contributing to an increase in the severe weather across the globe, with an increase in the intensity of droughts and floods. La Nina has certainly triggered some severe weather across the globe in the last eighteen months, but the number of severe weather events is steadily increasing.

According to a new report by the European NGO Germanwatch, the countries that were worst hit by extreme weather events in 2010 were Pakistan, Guatemala and Colombia. Pakistan and Colombia were both hit by the worst flooding in their recorded history, and Guatemala was battered by a series of tropical storms.

Over a 20 year period, Germanwatch conclude that those most affected have been Bangladesh, Myanmar and Honduras. Not a single developed country features in the top ten, which highlights the particular vulnerability that poorer countries have to climatic threats.

This year’s global warmth has meant that the volume of Arctic Sea ice is the lowest on record. There has also been a significant melting of the permafrost, which has released more methane into the atmosphere, which is yet another contributor of climate change.

Accurate records of global temperature date back 161 years, therefore 2011’s ranking of 10 or 11, is clearly very high. The reason for the discrepancy in the exact ranking of the year is due to the different ways that the Met Office and NASA manipulate their data, in particular how they handle the Arctic where there are large areas without weather stations.

The Met Office leave the areas without stations out of their analyses, whereas NASA fills in the gaps with data from the nearest land stations. Both approaches pose problems, but it’s  surprising how closely the results from the two methods correlates!

Despite the fact that another year has been one of the hottest on record, it seems that the prospects for a meaningful agreement at the Durban conference appear bleak.

Source : Al Jazeera

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