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Expect more weird weather, says NOAA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's annual report draws connections between the extreme weather events of 2011 and a warming climate.

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The La Niña system waned in the spring, before strengthening in the second half of the year. This weakening is blamed for some of the destructive tornadoes in the South in spring 2011. Warming temperatures in the Pacific allowed the jet stream to go rogue, driving winds into the heart of the United States, where cool and warm air masses collided, creating the thunderstorms that spawned killer tornadoes.

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Heat waves more likely

A separate study released at the same time examined a number of 2011's extreme events, and compared the likelihood of such events happening now to years past. This study found that the heat wave that struck Texas was about 20 times more likely to occur in a La Niña year now, as opposed to 50 years ago, said study author Peter Stott, a climatologist with the United Kingdom Met Office. The increased likelihood of heat waves is a result of a warmer world, he said.

Taken as a whole, the report and study show the globe continuing to warm, and suggest it will continue to do so, said Martin Jeffries, a researcher at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

"2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world," NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said.

But the weirdness and extreme weather is not limited to 2011. A separate report released yesterday by NOAA found that the first half of 2012 has been the hottest six months on record in the continental United States.

Reach Douglas Main at Follow him on Twitter @Douglas_Main. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Copyright 2012 OurAmazingPlanet, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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