This year is the seventh warmest since records began in 1850 and rising sea levels caused by climate change are aggravating the impact of storms such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday.
More greenhouse gases in the atmosphere meant a warmer future, and more extreme weather, was inevitable, WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement during Nov. 11-22 climate talks among almost 200 nations in Warsaw.
The WMO said the first nine months of the year tied with the same period of 2003 as seventh warmest, with average global land and ocean surface temperatures 0.48°C above the 1961-1990 average.
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In a reversal of public opinion, the vast majority of Americans – about 75 per cent, now believe that global warming is real, serious and man-made, according to a study by Stanford University.
The state-by-state poll shows concerns tend to be higher in coastal states or drought-stricken areas.
Most also back government curbs on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants – with the measure drawing 62 per cent support in Utah and 90 per cent in New Hampshire.
"This year once again continues the underlying, long-term trend," towards higher temperatures caused by global warming that are causing more heatwaves and downpours, Jarraud said.
The WMO said it was likely to end among the top 10 warmest years since records began in 1850.
Extreme events include super typhoon Haiyan, one of the most intense in history that smashed into the Philippines last Friday, it said. The WMO said, however, that it was impossible to blame climate change for individual storms.
"The jury is still out on whether tropical cyclones will become more frequent in the future," Jeremiah Lengoasa, deputy WMO Secretary-General, told a news conference.
He pointed to wide uncertainties about how they form.
Sea level rise
But sea level rise, caused by melting ice and an expansion of water as it warms, is worsening storm surges and had been especially rapid in the western Pacific Ocean, driven by local changes in winds and sea currents.
One tidal gauge at Legaspi in the Philippines showed a rise of 35 centimetres in average sea levels from 1950-2010, against a global average of 10 centimetres, WMO data showed.
President Benigno Aquino said the death toll from the recent typhoon and flooding was closer to 2,000 or 2,500 than the previously reported figure of 10,000. Other extremes this year have included record heatwaves in Australia and floods from Sudan to Europe, the WMO said. Japan had its warmest summer on record.
Apparently bucking a warming trend, sea ice around Antarctica expanded to a record extent. But the WMO said: "Wind patterns and ocean currents tend to isolate Antarctica from global weather patterns, keeping it cold."
2010 was warmest on record
The WMO said 2010 was the warmest year on record, ahead of 2005 and 1998.
In September, The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) raised the probability that man-made greenhouse gas emissions, largely from burning fossil fuels, were the main cause of warming since 1950 to at least 95 percent from 90 in a previous assessment in 2007.
The IPCC said the pace of temperature rises at the Earth's surface has slowed slightly in recent years in what the panel called a "hiatus" that may be linked to big natural variations and factors such as the ocean absorbing more heat.
The Warsaw talks are working on a long-term deal to confront global warming, which is due to be agreed in 2015 in Paris. Many developed nations are reluctant to step up action at a time when their economies are under strain.
Separately, Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, rejected calls by environmentalists for her to drop plans to speak at a "world coal summit" in Warsaw on Nov. 18-19 to promote cleaner uses of the fossil fuel.
She said she shared their concern about pollution. "That is precisely why I will be going to speak directly to an industry that must change quickly," she wrote in a letter. Poland generates about 90 percent of its electricty from coal.