New Delhi, July 3: The world suffered unprecedented climate extremes in the decade 2001-2010, from heatwaves to floods, against a backdrop of global warming, a United Nations report said on Wednesday.
However, casualties from storms and droughts declined due to better preparedness to face disasters. But this does not hold true for India as seen from the recent tragedy in Uttarakhand.
The report, Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes, by the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says that floods were the most frequently experienced extreme events over the decade. Tthere were 511 tropical cyclone related disaster events recorded in the ten years.
Due these weather conditions (heat, cold, drought, storms and floods), more than 370,000 people have died in the decade (2001-2010), which is 20 percent higher than deaths in 1991-2000. But the study said that casualties from storms and droughts fell, partly because of better preparedness for disasters in many countries.
Rising emissions are factor in climate change
Though a decade is short to draw conclusion, the study said many extremes could be explained by natural variations - freak storms and droughts have happened throughout history - but that rising emissions of man-made greenhouse gases also played a role.
"Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said today.
Every year of the decade except 2008 was among the 10 warmest since records began in the 1850s, with 2010 the hottest. The number of daily heat records far outstripped lows.
Half the world sees rise in temperature
The study said that 44 percent of nations recorded the highest daily maximum temperature of the past half-century in the decade 2001-10 but only 11 percent reported a new low.
It also said that the decade "continued an extended period of accelerating global warming" with average decadal temperatures 0.21 degree Celsius (0.4 F) warmer than 1991-2000, which was in turn 0.14 C warmer than 1981-1990.
The record warmth was accompanied by a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice, and accelerating loss of net mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and from the world's glaciers, said the report.
As a result of this widespread melting and the thermal expansion of sea water, global mean sea levels rose about 3mm per year, about double the observed 20th century trend of 1.6 mm per year. Global sea level averaged over the decade was about 20 cm higher than that of 1880.
Above normal precipitation
The report said most parts of the globe had above-normal precipitation during the decade. The eastern USA, northern and eastern Canada, and many parts of Europe and central Asia were particularly wet.
The study also said that 2010 was the wettest year since records began. And sea levels have risen about 20 centimeters in the past century, increasing risks of storm surges.