The Heat Is Online

First Half of 2007 Marked By Increasing Extremes

U.N.: Record extreme weather in '07


Scientists say global land surface temperatures likely warmest since 1880


Reuters, Aug 7, 2007


GENEVA - The world experienced a series of record-breaking weather events in early 2007, from flooding in Asia to heat waves in Europe and snowfall in South Africa, the United Nations weather agency said Tuesday.


The World Meteorological Organization said global land surface temperatures in January and April were likely the warmest since records began in 1880, at more than 1 degree Celsius higher than average for those months.


There have also been severe monsoon floods across South Asia, abnormally heavy rains in northern Europe, China, Sudan, Mozambique and Uruguay, extreme heat waves in southeastern Europe and Russia, and unusual snowfall in South Africa and South America this year, the World Meteorological Organization said.


The start of the year 2007 was a very active period in terms of extreme weather events, Omar Baddour of the agencys World Climate Program told journalists in Geneva.


While most scientists believe extreme weather events will be more frequent as heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions cause global temperatures to rise, Baddour said it was impossible to say with certainty what the second half of 2007 will bring.


It is very difficult to make projections for the rest of the year, he said.


Health crisis


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. umbrella group of hundreds of experts, has noted an increasing trend in extreme weather events over the past 50 years and said irregular patterns are likely to intensify.


South Asias worst monsoon flooding in recent memory has affected 30 million people in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, destroying croplands, livestock and property and raising fears of a health crisis in the densely-populated region.


Heavy rains also doused southern China in June, with nearly 14 million people affected by floods and landslides that killed 120 people, the WMO said.


England and Wales this year had their wettest May and June since records began in 1766, resulting in extensive flooding and more than $6 billion in damage, as well as at least nine deaths. Germany swung from its driest April since country-wide observations started in 1901 to its wettest May on record.


Mozambique suffered its worst floods in six years in February, followed by a tropical cyclone the same month, and flooding of the Nile River in June caused damage in Sudan.


Uruguay had its worst flooding since 1959 in May.


Huge swell waves swamped some 68 islands in the Maldives in May, resulting in severe damage, and the Arabian Sea had its first documented cyclone in June, touching Oman and Iran.


Temperature records were broken in southeastern Europe in June and July, and in western and central Russia in May. In many European countries, April was the warmest ever recorded.


Argentina and Chile saw unusually cold winter temperatures in July while South Africa had its first significant snowfall since 1981 in June.


The WMO and its 188 member states are working to set up an early warning system for extreme weather events. The agency is also seeking to improve monitoring of the impacts of climate change, particularly in poorer countries which are expected to bear the brunt of floods, droughts and storms.


Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved



Extreme weather the norm across globe


Financial Times, Aug. 7, 2007


The world this year has ­suffered record-breaking weather extremes in almost every continent, the United Nations World Meteorological Organisation has warned, with global land temperatures reaching their highest levels since records began in 1800.

The floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms could be part of the climates natural variations and cannot be directly attributed to climate change. However, such instances of extreme weather are consistent with predictions of what will happen as the worlds climate grows warmer.

The findings may fuel concern that action to stem climate change should be taken now. Experts from the Intergovernmental Group on Climate Change have said the process would become irreversible if temperatures rise 3°C above pre-industrial levels.

The WMO said global land surface temperatures in 2007 were 1.89°C warmer than average for January, and 1.37°C warmer than average for April. It tracked an alarming incidence of unusually adverse weather from Europe and Asia to Latin America, the Middle East and Africa.

Monsoon extremes and incessant rains caused large-scale flooding all over South Asia, it said, a situation that continues even now, resulting in more than 500 deaths, displacement of more than 10m people and destruction of vast areas of croplands, livestock and property.

Cyclone Gonu, the first documented cyclone in the Arabian Sea, landed in Oman on June 6 with maximum sustained winds of nearly 148km/h, affecting more than 20,000 people.

In east Asia, heavy rains in June ravaged southern China, where flooding affected more than 13.5m people; while in England and Wales the period from May to July was the wettest since records began in 1766.

Germany also saw its wettest May since countrywide observations started in 1901; in sharp contrast with the previous month, which was its driest April since 1901.

Further south, the worst flooding in six years hit Mozambique in February, while abnormally heavy and early rainfall in Sudan since the end of June has caused the Nile River and other seasonal rivers to overflow.

A series of large swell waves (3 metres-4.5 metres) swamped 68 islands in 16 atolls in the Maldives, while to the west, in Latin America, early May saw Uruguays worst flooding since 1959.

These deluges were matched by extremes of temperature in other parts of the world, with two record-breaking heatwaves affecting southeastern Europe in June and July. In May, Moscow recorded its highest temperature since 1891.

In July, temperatures in Argentina and Chile plunged to 22°C and 18°C, respectively.

South Africa, on June 27, experienced its first significant snowfall since 1981 (25cm of snow in parts of the country).

The UN will hold a high-level meeting on climate change in September, ahead of a ministerial conference in Bali in December.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007