Hottest year on record as extreme weather lashes globe – World –

THIS year is Australia’s hottest on record and may be the planet’s warmest for thousands of years.

Extreme weather events also soared, with a historic hurricane season in the north Atlantic and heatwaves and flooding on most continents, according to an annual review by the World Meteorological Organisation.

Michael Coughlan of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said 2005 and 1998 were vying to be the hottest years on record globally, with only two weeks of measurements to be made. “Nineteen ninety-eight has its nose in front, but the race is not over yet.”

Dr Coughlan said the record warmth in 1998 was helped along by a strong El Nino event – a warming of the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean occurring every three to seven years that tends to increase global temperatures. “The 2005 warmth is remarkable for the fact that it occurred in the absence of an El Nino event,” he said.

Will Steffen, director of the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at the Australian National University, said temperatures had risen sharply in the past few decades due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The last time the Earth was this warm was about 5000 or 6000 years ago.”

Temperatures would continue to climb, with the warming possibly intensified by factors such as an increase in wildfires that release carbon dioxide.

A hotter Earth could also release carbon dioxide from organic matter in the soil, and warmer oceans could be less able to absorb carbon dioxide from the air.

“The future is notoriously hard to predict, but climatically speaking we are probably in for a rather wild ride,” Professor Steffen said.

Richard Whitaker, a consultant meteorologist, said climate change was likely to increase the severity of extreme weather in Australia and around the world.

He said Australia had become complacent about the risk of severe cyclones and storm surges, despite witnessing the devastation of the hurricane season in the US.

Cities such as Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns and possibly Brisbane could be struck by a severe cyclone similar to the one that severely damaged Townsville in 1971.

In 1998 the average global surface temperature was 0.54 degrees above the 30-year annual average for the years 1961 to 1990. This year’s temperature has so far been 0.48 degrees above the average. Final figures will be released in February.






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