Global warming has accelerated since the 1970s and broken more countries’ temperature records than ever before in the first decade of the new millennium, UN climate experts have said.
A new analysis from the World Meteorological Organization shows that average land and ocean surface temperatures from 2001 to 2010 rose above the previous decade, and were almost a half-degree Celsius above the 1961-1990 global average.
The decade ending in 2010 was an unprecedented era of climate extremes, the agency said, evidenced by heat waves in Europe and Russia, droughts in the Amazon Basin, Australia and East Africa, and huge storms like Tropical Cyclone Nargis and Hurricane Katrina.
Data from 139 nations showed that droughts like those in Australia, East Africa and the Amazon Basin affected the most people worldwide. But it was the hugely destructive and deadly floods like those in Pakistan, Australia, Africa, India and Eastern Europe that were the most frequent extreme weather events.
WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said the data does not support the theory of some scientists of a slowdown, or lull, in the pace of planetary warming in recent years.
“The last decade was the warmest, by a significant margin,” he said. “If anything we should not talk about the plateau, we should talk about the acceleration.”
He said warming accelerated between 1971 and 2010, with the past two decades increasing at rates never seen before amid rising concentrations of industrial gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
By the end of 2010, the report shows, atmospheric concentrations of some of the chief warming gases from fossil fuel burning and other human actions were far higher than at the start of the industrial era in 1750. Carbon dioxide concentrations in the air rose 39% since then; methane rose 158%; and nitrous oxide was up 20%.