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Climate change: 2011 temperatures the hottest ever during La Nina

Climate change studies show rising global temperatures – the 10th highest ever – and shrinking ice caps. This year saw the lowest volume of Arctic sea ice ever recorded, due to global warming, say scientists.

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"Global temperatures in 2011 are currently the tenth highest on record and are higher than any previous year with a La Nina event, which has a relative cooling influence," it said

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This year, the global climate was influenced heavily by the strong La Nina, a natural phenomenon usually linked to extreme weather in Asia-Pacific, South America and Africa, which developed in the tropical Pacific in the second half of 2010 and continued until May 2011.

One of the strongest such events in 60 years, it was closely associated with the drought in east Africa, islands in the central equatorial Pacific and the United States, as well as severe flooding in other parts of the world.

The WMO report said the extent of Arctic sea ice in 2011 was the second lowest on record, and its volume was the lowest.

It said the build-up of greenhouse gases put the world at a tipping point of irreversible changes in ecosystems.

"Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached new highs," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a separate statement.

"They are very rapidly approaching levels consistent with a 2-2.4 degree Centigrade rise in average global temperatures which scientists believe could trigger far reaching and irreversible changes in our Earth, biosphere and oceans."

Russia experienced the largest variation from average, with its northern parts seeing January to October temperatures about 4 degrees C higher in several places, it said.

U.N. scientists said in a separate report this month an increase in heat waves is almost certain, while heavier rainfall, more floods, stronger cyclones, landslides and more intense droughts are likely across the globe this century as the Earth's climate warms.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said global average temperatures could rise by 3-6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century if governments failed to contain emissions, bringing unprecedented destruction as glaciers melt, sea levels rise and small island states are submerged.

(Additional reporting by Tom Miles in Geneva, reporting by Jon Herskovitz, Editing by Maria Golovnina and Janet Lawrence)

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