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11/13/2013

Does changing weather create more records than the Olympics?

Haiyan

An entire neighbourhood is destroyed the Philippine city of Tacloban in the aftermath of Typhoon, which hit that country on Friday. (Getty Images)

Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest to make landfall ever.  

Australia is on course to having the warmest summer ever.

Water levels in rivers in northern Africa are at the lowest level ever.

It seems every time you blink, a weather-related record is crushed. Now here is another one from the World Meteorological Organization: 2013 is currently on course to be among the top 10 warmest years since modern records began in 1850.

The WMO also says that the first nine months of the year, “January to September, tied with 2003 as the seventh warmest such period on record, with a global land and ocean surface temperature of about 0.48°C (0.86°F) above the 1961–1990 average.”  

This comes just as delegates from almost 200 countries sat down in Warsaw, starting Monday, for two weeks of talks to try to lay the groundwork for a new pact to fight global warming. They will negotiate the outline of a global deal to be signed in Paris in 2015, which will go into force in 2020.

“Temperatures so far this year are about the same as the average during 2001-2010, which was the warmest decade on record,” said Michel Jarraud, WMO’s secretary general. “All of the warmest years have been since 1998 and this year once again continues the underlying, long-term trend. The coldest years now are warmer than the hottest years before 1998.”  

The coldest years now are warmer than the hottest years before 1998. How about that?

Jarraud also said that concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions, inclduing carbon  dioxide, reached new highs in 2012.

“Surface temperatures are only part of the wider picture of our changing climate. The impact on our water cycle is already becoming apparent -– as manifested by droughts, floods and extreme precipitation.”

It isn’t as if 2012 was any better: last year was the warmest on record for the U.S. and the second worst for weather extremes, including drought, hurricanes and wildfires

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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