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WMO Report Concludes 2001-2010 Warmest Decade on Record

WMO3 July 2012: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a report, titled 'The Global Climate 2001-2010: A Decade of Climate Extremes,' which concludes that more national temperature records were broken than in any previous decade since measurements began in 1850, and that the world experienced unprecedented high-impact climate extremes during 2001-2010.

The report indicates that, inter alia: the decade was the warmest for both hemispheres and for both land and ocean surface temperatures; Arctic sea ice declined rapidly and loss of net mass from Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and glaciers accelerated; and global-average carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rose to 389 parts per million in 2010.

“A decade is the minimum possible timeframe for meaningful assessments of climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud, explaining that, while natural climate variability means some years are cooler than others, the underlying long-term trend is clearly in an upward direction. Jarraud also highlighted that a decadal perspective can inform efforts to develop operational climate services that provide information and forecasts for decision-making in agriculture, health, disaster risk, water resources and other sectors.

The report states that floods were the most frequent extreme event during the decade, while droughts affected more people than other natural disasters due to their large scale and long-lasting nature. In addition, over 500 cyclone-related disaster events killed nearly 170,000 people, affected over 250 million, and caused estimated damages of $380 billion. Over 370,000 people died as a result of extreme weather and climate conditions, 20% more than in the previous decade, mainly due to the 2003 European and 2010 Russian heat waves. However, the number of deaths due to storms and floods decreased due to better early warning systems and increased preparedness.

Research is being conducted into whether individual extreme events can be attributed to climate change rather than natural variability, with scientists concluding that the likelihood of events such as the 2003 European heat wave probably increased because of rising temperatures. It therefore underscores the importance of developing this research to strengthen climate science and use it to help society adapt to climate change. [Publication: The Global Climate 2001-2010: A Decade of Climate Extremes] [WMO Press Release] [UNEP Press Release] [UN Press Release]