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Great Lakes Article:

2001 the Second Warmest Year on Record
Article courtesy of the Environmental News Service
December 18, 2001

GENEVA, 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 (WMO).

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 said.

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 than average.

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 in 1895.

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 three years.

  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 hundreds homeless.

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 Republic.

  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 water levels.

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 region.

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.

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