Reflection on 2010: The climate stories

So now its the new year and resolutions have already fallen by the wayside it seems like a good time to look back at what has happened over the last year.

It began with the coldest winter (Dec-Feb) here in the UK since 1978-79, while there were record high temperatures in Russia as Moscow sweltered in 38.2C heat, the warmest for 91 years, causing drought and the warmest summer on record. The year ended with floods in Queensland, Australia that are currently submerging much of the city of Brisbane.

NOAA’s map of significant events for last year (click image for large view)

The Top Ten Global Weather/Climate Events for 2010 are in the table below:

Rank Event When Occurred
1 Russo- European- Asian Heat Waves Summer
2 2010 as [near] warmest on record Calendar Year
3 Pakistani Flooding Late July into August
4 El Niño to La Niña Transition Mid-to-Late Boreal Spring
5 Negative Arctic Oscillation December–February
6 Brazillian Drought Ongoing
7-tie Historically Inactive NE Pacific Hurricane Season May 15th–November 30th
7-tie Historic N. Hemispheric Snow Retreat January through June
9 Minimum Sea Ice Extent Mid-September
10 China Drought First half of 2010

Although the summer of 2010 produced some extreme weather events the following sums the view of climatologists on the matter.

“Although we can’t attribute individual extreme weather events to climate change, the risk of some types of events may have already increased, highlighting the vulnerability of the human and natural worlds to changes in climate.

Our climate change predictions support the emerging trend in observations and show a clear intensification of extreme rainfall events in a warmer world. In the case of heatwaves, there is a fairly direct link between the global and regional average warming attributable to human influence and the increasing frequency of extreme temperatures that has been observed worldwide. Further research is needed to understand how climate change may have already altered the risk of such events occurring.” – Met Office, The State of the climate

So 2010 was one of the warmest years on record. The combined global land and ocean surface temperature tied with 2005 as the warmest such period on record, at 0.62°C (1.12°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F).

The above graph shows the trend of significant long-term warming which is confirmed by the 2010 data according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Update: From WMO  (20/1/11)

“The year 2010 was characterized by a high number of extreme weather events, including the heatwave in Russia and the devastating monsoonal floods in Pakistan….

There have been many major weather and climate events in late 2010 and early 2011. These include:

  • In early January floods affected more than 800 000 people in Sri Lanka according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Philippines were also severely affected by floods and mudslides during January.
  • Flash floods in the mountain areas near the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in the second week of January resulted in more than 700 deaths, many of them in mudslides. This is one of the highest death tolls due to a single natural disaster in Brazilian history.
  • Severe flooding occurred in eastern Australia in December and the first half of January, associated with the continuing strong La Niña event.  The most extensive damage was in the city of Brisbane, which had its second-highest flood of the last 100 years after that of January 1974. In financial terms it is expected to be the most costly natural disaster in Australia’s history.

As scientists have long predicted, increasing levels of greenhouse gases would lead to increasing global temperatures, and more extreme weather, especially heatwaves and flooding.”


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