WMO says global warming accelerated in past decade

2011 confirmed as warmest La Niña year on record

A World Meteorological Organization graph shows the sharp rise in global temperatures, both in El Niño and La Niña years.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —Far from slowing down or stopping, climate change  accelerated in the past decade, the warmest 10-year span ever recorded in all continents of the globe, according to a March 23 statement by the World Meteorological Organization.

“This 2011 annual assessment confirms the findings … that climate change is happening now and is not some distant future threat,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud, releasing the organization’s report on World Meteorological Day. “The world is warming because of human activities and this is resulting in far-reaching and potentially irreversible impacts on our Earth, atmosphere and oceans,” Jarraud said.

The organization’s annual statement on the status of the global climate confirmed that  2011 was the 11th warmest since record-keeping started 1850, making it the warmest La Niña  year on record. Globally-averaged temperatures in 2011 were estimated to be 0.40° Centigrade above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14°C.

Precipitation extremes, many of them associated with one of the strongest La Niña events of the last 60 years, had major impacts on the world. Significant flooding occurred on all continents, and major droughts affected parts of east Africa and North America. Arctic sea ice extent fell to near record-low levels.

The WMO also announced preliminary findings of the soon to be released Decadal Global Climate Summary. The rate of increase since 1971 has been “remarkable” according to the preliminary assessment. Atmospheric and oceanic phenomena such as La Niña events had a temporary cooling influence in some years but did not halt the overriding warming trend.

The “dramatic and continuing sea ice decline in the Arctic” was one of the most prominent features of the changing state of the climate during the decade, according to the preliminary findings. Global average precipitation was the second highest since 1901 and flooding was reported as the most frequent extreme event, it said.


The decade 2001-2010 was the warmest since records began in 1850, with global land and sea surface temperatures estimated at 0.46°C above the long-term average (1961-1990) of 14.0°C. Nine of these years were among the ten warmest on record. The warmest year on record was 2010, closely followed by 2005, with a mean temperature estimated at 0.53°C above the long-term average. It was the warmest decade ever recorded for global land surface, sea surface and for every continent.

Most parts of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Asia and northern Africa recorded temperatures for the decade between 1°C and 3°C above the 1961-1990 average.

Nearly 90% of the countries involved in the assessment experienced their warmest decade on record.

The global temperature increase rate has been “remarkable” during the previous four decades, according to the preliminary summary. The global temperature has increased since 1971 at an average estimated rate of 0.166°C per decade compared to the average rate of 0.06 °C per decade computed over the full period 1881-2010.


Global precipitation (rain, snow etc) over land in 2001-2010 was the second highest average after 1951-60 since 1901. Within this global average, there were big regional and annual differences.

Large parts of the Northern Hemisphere recorded wetter-than-average conditions during the decade, especially the eastern United States of America, northern and eastern Canada, and many parts of Europe and central Asia. South America, including Colombia, parts of northern and southern Brazil, Uruguay and northeastern Argentina experienced wetter-than-average conditions, as did most parts of South Africa, Indonesia and northern Australia.

In contrast, other regions experienced, on average, below normal precipitation. The western United States, southwestern Canada, Alaska, most parts of southern and western Europe, most parts of southern Asia, central Africa, central South America, and eastern and southeastern Australia were the most affected.

Extreme Events

Numerous weather and climate extremes affected almost every part of the globe with flooding, droughts, cyclones, heat waves, and cold waves. Two exceptional heat waves hit Europe and Russia during summer 2003 and 2010 respectively with disastrous impacts and thousands of deaths and outbreaks of prolonged bush fires.

Flooding was the most reported extreme event during the decade with many parts of the world affected. Historical widespread and prolonged flooding affected Eastern Europe in 2001 and 2005, Africa in 2008, Asia (in particular Pakistan) in 2010 and India in 2005, and Australia in 2010.

A large number of countries reported extreme drought conditions, including Australia, eastern Africa, the Amazonia region and the western United States. Humanitarian consequences were significant in eastern Africa during the first half of the decade, with widespread shortage of food and loss of lives and livestock.

Forty-eight out of 102 countries (47 per cent) reported that their highest national maximum temperature was recorded in 2001-2010, compared to 20 per cent for 1991-2000 and around 10 per cent for the earlier decades.

The decade saw the highest level of tropical cyclone activity on record for the North Atlantic basin. In 2005 category 5 hurricane Katrina was the most costly hurricane to hit the United States, with a significant human toll of more than 1 800 deaths. In 2008, tropical cyclone Nargis was the worst natural disaster in Myanmar and the world’s deadliest tropical cyclone during the decade, killing more than 70 000 people.

Sea Ice

The decline in the Arctic sea-ice, observed since the end of the 1960s, continued throughout 2001-2010. A historical low Arctic sea-ice extent at the melting period in September was recorded in 2007.

Arctic sea ice extent was again well below average in 2011. The seasonal minimum, reached on 9 September, was 4.33 million square kilometres (35 percent below the 1979-2000 average) according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center. This was the second-lowest seasonal minimum on record, 0.16 million square kilometres above the record low set in 2007. Sea ice volume was even further below average and was estimated at a new record low of 4,200 cubic kilometres, surpassing the record of 4,580 cubic kilometres set in 2010.

Satellites have shown the fluctuation in sea ice from year to year since 1972. According to scientific measurements, both the thickness and sea ice extent in the Arctic have shown a marked decline over the past 35 years. Data indicate, however, an even more dramatic reduction in Arctic sea ice cover in recent years. The last six years of the decade (2005 to 2010) recorded the lowest five September extents, with 2007 recording the record minimum extent with 4.28 million km2, 39 percent below the 1979-2000 reference period.

13 thoughts on “WMO says global warming accelerated in past decade

  1. I notice frequent misinformation here at Citizens Voice such as-
    “A 2009 study from the National Center for Atmospheric Research found that the ratio of record highs to record lows has been increasing in the United States over the past four decades.”
    This is a half truth. Yes, the ratio of record highs and lows has been increasing, not for four dcades (the period CO2 is hypothesized to be the principal driving force), but for 300 years! The instumental temperature record (use of thermometers) began about 300 years ago during the Little Ice Age. It’s been getting warmer ever since, about 0.7 degrees C. per century. Obviously after 300 years of warming, there will be more record highs than record lows.The warming has been uneven with, for example, two significant warming periods last century- from about 1920 to 1942 and again from 1978 to 1998 which are statistically very similar (despite the lack of CO2 forcing during the earlier period according to IPCC). From 1942 until 1978 there was slight cooling. From 1998 until now global temperatures have flatlined, so there has been only 20 years of waming the past 68 years. Though scientists agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentration is increasing becasue of man’s activities, there is no agreement on climate sensitivity (how much difference the extra CO2 will make). Some model,s like Hansen’s increasingly discredited models, project catastrophic warming of 6 degrees for a doubling of CO2. Most project 2-3 degrees. Some project less than one degree. Models are not evidence; they are hypotheses that require confirmation by the empirical record (the temperature record). Despite a warm winter and very warm March in the eastern U.S, global temperatures continue to flatline, and polar ice, which some models projected to decrease significantly, are at average levels for the satellite era, 1978 until now.
    Scientific method is about making and testing hypotheses (computer simulated models, now). Propaganda is about pushing a narrative or agenda when the there is insufficient or contradictory scientific evidence. There are many government and university web sites where you can confirm the empirical record: temperature, ice, sea level rise (which is about the same 3 mm per year as over the past 100 years). If journalists and others did their homework, those with an agenda would not be able to spread half truths, and science would not be compromised by those with strong bias or agenda like Hansen who told congress in 1988 that by 2010 parts of NYC would probably be under water. Human activities are a threat to the environment. Science and factual information are a requirement for discerning which ones are catastrophic, which are potential, and which are hype, hysteria, or disinformation. When journalists and citizens know the empirical record (global temperature, sea level rise), they will be in a position to contribute to problem solving. Without knowledge- fear, hysteria, disinformation, and agendas replace science.

  2. El Stevo, take the time to read and learn about the events and science of global warming. Stop listening to the talking heads on the “RIGHT” they are spewing dead wrong propaganda non-science if you get my drift.

  3. The graph referenced by stevengoddard is probably not wrong, it is just not being interpreted properly. In terms of statistical analysis, the recent curves are ALL below the average from the previous three decades. Only the peaks of the recent values are touching the average. A minor increase since 2007 is insignificant compared to a downward overall trend. Average the past few years in September; then see how far below the previous average it is!

  4. Jeremy,

    This isn’t exactly a satellite picture, but it is a good visual representation of the sea ice from the National Snow and Ice Data Center: http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_bm_extent_hires.png

    The orange line is the long-term average ice extent for the date. There are clearly areas for which the ice extent is above average (look at the Bering Sea) as well as areas for which it is below average. Overall the extent is ever so slightly below average, and steven’s graph is accurate. Interestingly, the melt this year seems to be beginning a bit later than normal. If recent history is a guide, the extent will stay close to the long-term average for the next few months before dropping dramatically for a minimum well below average in September.

    Please don’t deny facts just because they don’t appear to fit your view.

  5. Doug, There is no “Misinformation” here at the Summit county voice, they are reporting correctly, unfortunately it is you who is misinformed and bringing plain ignorant talking points. If you care to do a little research you would find that the heat getting trapped by C02 is resulting in more heat content stored in the earth and especially the oceans which leads to less cold days and more extreme weather events, right until the 60’s hot vs cold were close to the range of 1:1 now we are seeing closer to 3:1 average up to 35:1 for march. Please do some research before maligning the staff here!

  6. Hello, This is such an excellent article,
    So if an island nation is submerged beneath the ocean, does it maintain its membership in the United Nations? Who is responsible for the citizens? Do they travel on its passport? Who claims and enforces offshore mineral and fishing rights in waters around a submerged nation? International law currently has no answers to such questions.
    United Nations Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is no sense of urgency to find not only those answers, but also to address the causes of climate change, which many believe to be responsible for rising ocean levels.
    “Even if we reach a legal agreement sometime soon, which I don’t think we will, the major players are not in the process,” Muller said.
    Those players, the participants said, include industrial nations such as the United States and China that emit the most carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Many climate scientists say those gases are responsible for global warming. Mary-Elena Carr of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said what is now an annual sea level rise of a few millimeters will increase dramatically by the year 2100. “The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from the University of Geneva. International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.
    t present, however, there appear to be at least three possibilities that could advance the international debate about ‘climate refugee’ protections and fill existing gaps in international law.
    The first option is to revise the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to include climate (or environmental) refugees and to offer legal protections similar to those for refugees fleeing political persecution. A second, more ambitious option is to negotiate a completely new convention, one that would try to guarantee specific rights and protections to climate or environmental ‘refugees`.

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