the Second Warmest Year on Record
Article courtesy of the Environmental News Service
December 18, 2001
Switzerland, December 18, 2001 (ENS) - The year 2001
is projected to be the second warmest on record, the World
Meteorological Organization said today. Record floods
and record droughts across the globe accompanied this
year's high temperatures.
The warmest year since records began in 1860 occurred
in 1998, according to records maintained by countries
that are members of the World Meteorological Organization
Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990,
including 1999 and 2000, when the cooling influence of
the tropical Pacific La Niña weather pattern contributed
to a somewhat lower global average temperature.
Preliminary figures from weather stations around the world
show the global average surface temperature this year was
above the 30 year average temperature between 1961 and 1990
by 0.42 degrees Celsius (.75 degrees Fahrenheit).
The year 2001 will be the 23rd consecutive year with the
global mean surface temperature above the 1961-1990 average.
This preliminary information for 2001 is based on observations
up to the end of November from a network of land based
weather stations, ships and buoys. The data are collected
and disseminated on a continuing basis by the National
Meteorological and Hydrological Services of the member
countries of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
WMO's global temperature analyses are based on data sets
maintained by the Hadley Centre of the Meteorological
Office, UK, and the Climatic Research Unit, East Anglia
University, UK. Another authoritative global surface temperature
data set maintained by the U.S. Department of Commerce's
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
is included. The WMO says results from these two data
sets are comparable. Both project that 2001 will be the
second warmest year globally.
The end of the La Niña weather pattern brought a return
of warmer sea surface temperatures to the central and
eastern equatorial Pacific in 2001 and was a contributing
factor to the higher annual average this year, the WMO
These conditions are part of a continuing trend to warmer
global temperatures that have resulted in a rise of more
than 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.08 degrees Fahrenheit) during
the past 100 years, but the rise in temperature has not
been continuous. Since 1976, the global average has risen
at a rate about three times faster than the trend over
the past 100 years.
Regional surface patterns show the presence of above average
temperatures across much of the globe in 2001, although
large parts of the tropical and north Pacific were cooler
When the data for December is complete, the annual temperature
in the United States for 2001 is expected to be similar
to the 2000 average, the 13th warmest since records began
Canada continued to experience unusually warm temperatures
throughout 2001 and has now had 18 straight seasons of
above average temperatures.
Temperatures in Japan are expected to be above normal
for the fifth year in a row, but cooler than the past
In the 343 year temperature series for Central England,
October 2001 was the warmest October on record. Denmark
and Germany also experienced their warmest October since
records began in the late 19th century, with temperatures
in Germany as much as four degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees
Fahrenheit) above average.
By contrast, the Russian winter was especially severe
in 2000-01. During a two week period in early 2001, minimum
temperatures near -60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees Fahrenheit)
occurred across central and southern Siberia. More than
100 deaths resulted from hypothermia in the Moscow region
alone during the long winter season.
Northern India also endured extreme cold in January that
contributed to more than 130 deaths.
In Bolivia, cold temperatures and snowfall affected a
large part of the Andean nation in late June and were
associated with several deaths in cities such as La Paz,
El Alto and Tarija.
Record cold also occurred in parts of Sweden in 2001,
although the winter season was warmer than average for
the country as a whole.
Many areas of the world were innundated with record rainfall,
while severe droughts seared other areas.
Above average rainfall continued in much of England and
Wales during the first three months of the year making
the 24 month period ending in March 2001 the wettest in
the 236 year England and Wales precipitation time series.
Northern, western and central areas of Australia received
well above average rainfall in 2001, continuing a pattern
that has prevailed over the past three years.
Winter season precipitation in January and February was
just 34 percent of normal in India, the second lowest
total in the past 100 years. The summer monsoon season
from June through September was also drier than normal,
92 percent of average, which has worsened prevailing water
shortages in areas such as West Madhya Pradesh.
In the United States, spring flooding inundated portions
of the Upper Midwest region as rapidly melting snow combined
with heavy rain from a series of storms. Boat and barge
traffic was closed along a 640 kilometer (400 mile) stretch
of the Mississippi River, and a state of emergency was
declared in many areas.
The number of hurricanes and tropical storms in the North
Atlantic Basin was above average in 2001. There were 15
named storms, five more than the long term average and
similar to 2000.
In June, Tropical Storm Allison moving slowly across the
southern and eastern United States resulted in the most
extensive flooding ever associated with a tropical storm.
To date, $1.05 billion in federal and state disaster assistance
has been provided to affected families and businesses.
The tropical depression that later became Hurricane Michelle,
produced heavy rains, flooding, and 10 deaths in Nicaragua
and Honduras. Hurricane Michelle severely affected the
coffee crop in Jamaica before moving over Cuba in early
November. It was the strongest hurricane to make landfall
in Cuba since 1952, causing at least five deaths.
In the western Pacific, Typhoon Chebi made landfall in
southern China's Fujian Province in June with maximum
sustained winds near 160 kilometres per hour (km/hr) killing
at least 79 people.
A total of 28 typhoons and tropical storms have formed
in the Northwest Pacific Basin to date in 2001, one more
than the average of the 25 years from 1970 to 1995.
Typhoons Durian and Utor made landfall within one week
of each other, causing numerous deaths and destroying
property in the Philippines and southern China.
Heavy rainfall in Mozambique and Zambia in early 2001
caused as many as 200 deaths, destroyed crops and left
Torrential rainfall occurred in Java, western Indonesia,
in early February producing flooding and devastating landslides
in at least 19 districts that led to great loss of life
and reports of more than 20,000 homes and thousands of
hectares of rice fields destroyed.
October 2000 to March 2001 precipitation was exceptional
in the Bretagne region of France. The normal annual rainfall
was exceeded by 20 to 40 percent in parts of the region
during this period, and new winter season rainfall records
were established in many locations.
A third consecutive year of severe flooding occurred in
Hungary and parts of Eastern Europe in March. The rain
swollen Tisza River, which rose to 7.6 metres (24.7 feet)
at the village of Zahony, Hungary, reached its highest
level in more than 100 years. The previous record was
set in 1888.
In Siberia, rainfall and a rapid spring thaw that followed
a severe winter resulted in widespread flooding from the
Ural Mountains to the Russian Far East. Temperatures from
two to five degrees Celsius above average in May accelerated
snowmelt causing ice jammed rivers to overflow their banks.
The homes of more than 300,000 people were lost or damaged
in the Siberian Republic of Yakutia, including 14,000
in the city of Lensk.
The worst flooding to affect Poland since 1997 occurred
in July as two weeks of heavy rains caused flooding along
the Vistula River, displacing 140,000 people from towns
and villages in southern and southwestern Poland. Floodwaters
killed at least 52 people in Poland and 39 in the Czech
In Vinh, Vietnam, heavy rain fell in a one-week period in
late October, contributing to flooding in the Mekong Delta
region that caused several hundred deaths between August
and October. This followed some of Vietnam's worst flooding
on record in 2000.
Three consecutive months of above average rainfall in
Argentina and neighboring Uruguay from August to October
led to flooding in the Pampas region of Argentina and
inundated more than 3.2 million hectares of agricultural
land. Buenos Aires reported more than twice the normal
amount of rainfall.
Areas of northern Iran experienced devastating flooding
from a single August storm that resulted in at least 183
deaths in the provinces of Golestan and Khorassan.
Heavy rains fell in West Africa in September bringing
the worst flooding in 10 years along the Niger River in
Guinea affecting nearly 70,000 people.
Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed by floods
in the central African country of Chad along the Logone,
Chari and Batha rivers.
In November, Algeria's worst flooding in 40 years killed
hundreds of people in the capital, Algiers.
Many areas of the world could have used some of the excess
water that caused so much damage in flooded regions.
Devastating drought in central and southern Asia that
began in 1998 continued in 2001 over a broad region centered
on Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Wet season, November
to April, rainfall since 1998 has been less than 55 percent
of average. The lack of adequate rainfall has stressed
water supplies and agriculture and has affected more than
60 million people.
Periods of extreme heat also occurred in parts of the
same region. Many heat related deaths were associated
with temperatures near 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees
Fahrenheit) in parts of Pakistan in early May. There is
some evidence, says the WMO, that the recent drought is
related to the combined effects of a prolonged La Niña
weather pattern and unusually warm sea surface temperatures
in the western Pacific and eastern Indian Oceans.
Drought in Kenya and neighbouring countries in the Greater
Horn of Africa also continued despite one of the wettest
Januarys in 40 years in parts of the region.
Very dry conditions were also prevalent during the austral
summer, December through February, and autumn, March through
May, over much of Brazil. Although conditions began to
improve in November, hydroelectric power stations that
supply energy to some of the most heavily populated regions
of the country continued to be adversely affected by low
Severe drought and water shortages were also reported
in northern China, the Korean peninsula and Japan during
the first half of the year.
Winter rainfall deficits in the western United States
worsened already dry conditions in many areas, contributing
to water and energy shortages in parts of the region.
November 2000 through February 2001 precipitation totals
were the second lowest on record in the Pacific Northwest
Conditions began to improve in late November and early
December 2001 as a series of early season storms produced
snowpack approaching 25 percent of the average late season
maximum in some areas. Drought conditions affected Canada
from coast to coast. Montreal had 35 straight days with
no more than one millimeter of precipitation, a new record.
Many regions across southern Canada experienced their
driest growing season in 34 years, and Saskatoon endured
its driest year in over 100 years of record.