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WMO: 2011 Is Warmest La Niña Year on Record and Science “Proves Unequivocally” It’s “Due to Human Activities”

By Joe Romm on December 3, 2011 at 7:10 pm

"WMO: 2011 Is Warmest La Niña Year on Record and Science “Proves Unequivocally” It’s “Due to Human Activities”"

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Global temperatures in 2011 are currently the tenth highest on record and are higher than any previous year with a La Niña event, which has a relative cooling influence. The 13 warmest years have all occurred in the 15 years since 1997. The extent of Arctic sea ice in 2011 was the second lowest on record, and its volume was the lowest.

“Our role is to provide the scientific knowledge to inform action by decision makers,” said [World Meteorological Organization] Secretary-General Michel Jarraud. “Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities,” he said.

“Concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached new highs. They are very rapidly approaching levels consistent with a 2-2.4 degree Centigrade rise in average global temperatures which scientists believe could trigger far reaching and irreversible changes in our Earth, biosphere and oceans,” he said.

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That’s from the WMO news release highlighting the “provisional annual World Meteorological Organization Statement on the Status of the Global Climate, which gives a global temperature assessment and a snapshot of weather and climate events around the world in 2011.”

Here’s more:

The WMO’s provisional statement estimated the global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for 2011 (January–October) at 0.41°C ± 0.11°C (0.74°F ± 0.20°F) above the 1961–1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.2°F, according to the provisional statement. This is the tenth equal warmest year since the start of records in 1850.

The 2002-2011 period equals 2001-2010 as the warmest decade on record, 0.46°C above the long-term average.

Global climate in 2011 was heavily influenced by the strong La Niña event which developed in the tropical Pacific in the second half of 2010 and continued until May 2011. It was one of the strongest of the last 60 years and was closely associated with the drought in east Africa, islands in the central equatorial Pacific and the southern United States, and flooding in southern Africa, eastern Australia and southern Asia.

Strong La Niña years are typically 0.10 to 0.15°C cooler than the years preceding and following them. 2011’s global temperatures followed this pattern, being lower than those of 2010, but were still considerably warmer than the most recent moderate to strong La Niña years, 2008 (+0.36°C), 2000 (+0.27°C) and 1989 (+0.12°C). Weak La Niña conditions have redeveloped in recent weeks but have not yet approached the intensity of those in late 2010 and early 2011.

Surface air temperatures were above the long-term average in 2011 over most land areas of the world. The largest departures from average were over Russia, especially in northern Russia where January-October temperatures were about 4°C above average in places.

The seasonal Arctic sea ice minimum, reached on 9 September, was 4.33 million square kilometres. This was 35% below the 1979-2000 average and only slightly more than the record low set in 2007. Unlike the 2007 season, both the Northwest and Northeast Passages were ice-free for periods during the 2011 summer. Sea ice volume was even further below average and was estimated at a new record low of 4200 cubic kilometres, surpassing the record of 4580 cubic kilometres set in 2010.

The above-average temperatures in most northern polar regions coincided with the second-lowest Arctic sea ice minimum extent and the lowest sea ice volume on record.

Other highlights:

  • Severe drought, then flood, in east Africa
  • Major floods in south-east Asia, Pakistan, Central and South America
  • Deadliest flash flood with landslide in Brazil
  • A year of extremes in the United States
  • A dry start to the year in Europe and eastern China
  • Another year of below-average tropical cyclone activity

The full WMO report is here.

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18 Responses to WMO: 2011 Is Warmest La Niña Year on Record and Science “Proves Unequivocally” It’s “Due to Human Activities”

  1. Climate Hawk says:

    Your graphic has a broken link.

  2. prokaryotes says:

    Maybe Humans are not capable to understand climate change. We are busy with our every day live, busy polluting the earth around us.

    The races consum-capital-ism lifestyle is not compatible with the earth ecosystems. We as a swarm have disconnected us from the environment and set depleting resources and pollution to our top priorities.

    The human race is on target to set the stage for a possible mega extinction event, when all or most life forms vanish creating a genetic bottleneck. Altering of the planets chemical composition, a rather balanced state by introducing highly reactive substances to the system.

    And if that weren’t bad enough we do absolutely everything to kill each other off and lying to us and ourself. We not only disconnected from nature, we use chemicals to alter our perception, or pollute the environment with long lived radioactive or other life damaging particles in nano scale and at the same time, record numbers of good mood drugs to cloud our senses.

    The human race is a threat to itself and all other living things.

    A government which is not addressing these interconnected situations, is incompetent and damages the economy.

    Private interest which undermine affords to combat climate change are a national security threat of the highest order.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      To get an idea of the root of our suicidal disease, you can consult this weekend’s ‘Financial Review’ in Australia. There is a story regarding the support that Murray, a business potentate, received from other business masters, for his remarkably crass and ignorant denialism aired in a TV interview. When you read the Dunning-Kruger level imbecilities that these business bosses either believe or pretend to believe, it is hard to know whether to laugh or cry. But the bedrock truth remains that is the capitalist, business-led Right who are destroying us.

  3. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    The rate of temperature increase for La Ninas is scary. Curiously, it seem to be following a decade earlier increase in El Nino temperatures. Lets hope it does not imply an rapid increase in El Nino temperatures is imminent.

  4. Brooks Bridges says:

    How refreshing to see “unequivocally” instead of the usual “highly probable”, “almost certainly”, etc. It’s past time.

    “Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities,”

  5. prokaryotes says:

    So what are the cost of the “Highlights”? Makes sense to combine studies to help people understand what we dealing with. We have to aggressively combat climate change if we do not want a earth with “Highlights” which become common.

    And we literally stand at a cliff. Albert Einstein warned that we are only a few years from major famine, if bee population were to disappear. But that is exactly what is happening. So why do we still allow the usage of certain pesticides to be used, which are tight to bee population decline? Why do we fight with an onslaught of double whammy our very own life support system?

  6. David B. Benson says:

    So what will the Heartland Institute do?

    Ignore this?

  7. Peter Mizla says:

    The WMO gets it- through hard data. The rest of the Public still seems unable to comprehend much at all.

    C02 is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps heat, energy is a concept many fail to understand- for even those who believe humans are changing the planets climate.

    After one of the warmest November’s on record in the state of Connecticut- it may hit 60 today and tomorrow.

    Also the arctic has ‘changed’ significantly’ in just 5 years; U.S. officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically for the worse in the past five years.

    It is melting at a near record pace, and it is darkening and absorbing too much of the sun’s heat.

    Can things become much worse?

    • Lionel A says:

      Can things become much worse?

      Well yes they can and they will.

      What most seem unaware of, with the exception of those profiting by unfettered capitalism who I don’t think are that stupid or ignorant but just don’t care so long as they make their mega-bucks for the now, is that because of the already elevated levels of GHGs over pre-industrial that there is more warming, and hence trouble, on the way even if we manage to reign in emissions from tomorrow.

      That is without even considering acceleration from change of polar albedo and also of the reduction of altitude of remaining ice surfaces. Then there is the methane ‘bomb’. These messages need driving home.

  8. dan says:

    Just curious. What started the global warming that melted the ice sheets 10,000 years ago?

    • Joe Romm says:

      We were coming out of the ice age (orbital and other non-human forcings). We’d be going back into one now (slowly) were it now for human activity

  9. Raul M. says:

    Well there is the American way of looking at that chart.
    Oh, look it’s red, white and blue.