Another record breaker: 2011 warmest La Niña year ever

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
November 30, 2011



 The Turkana tribe of northern Kenya are buffeted by constant drought and food insecurity, which recent research says may be worsening due to climate change. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
The Turkana tribe of northern Kenya in East Africa are buffeted by constant drought and food insecurity, which recent research says may be worsening due to climate change. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

As officials meet at the 17th UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa, the world continues to heat up. The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has announced that they expect 2011 to be the warmest La Niña year since record keeping began in 1850. The opposite of El Nino, a La Niña event causes general cooling in global temperatures.

"Despite La Niña, it was a very, very warm year to the point that it is the warmest decade on record," explained WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud during a press briefing in Geneva.

Even with the cooling impact of La Niña, this year is on track to becoming the 10th warmest yet. In fact, the 13 warmest years on record have all occurred in the last 15 years with the 2000s being the warmest decade to date.

"Our science is solid and it proves unequivocally that the world is warming and that this warming is due to human activities," Jarraud said.

The effects of this heat are being felt far-and-wide. This year saw the Arctic's sea ice hit its lowest volume on record and have its second lowest extent. Ice shelves in Canada have halved in the last six years. Meanwhile, with wider recognition of the impacts of climate change on severe weather, this year was also notable for an unusually large amount of extreme weather events. For example, 2011 saw drought and famine in East Africa, killing over tens-of-thousands of people; massive floods in Asia and the Americas with a record-breaking deluge in Thailand, dubbed its worst natural disaster in history; a wide-variety of extreme weather events in the US, including an extended drought and heatwave in Texas; as well as a below-average year for tropical cyclones.

Meanwhile, the UN has reported that concentration of greenhouse gases have hit a new high in the atmosphere, and emissions levels for last year beat worse-case-scenarios.

“[Greenhouse gas emissions] are very rapidly approaching levels consistent with a rise of 2 to 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,” Jarraud warns.

Despite this, many observers expect little progress at the Climate Summit in South Africa, where one of the main issues is what to do with the Kyoto Treaty—the only legally binding treat focusing on emissions reductions—when it expires next year. Some industrial nations, such as the US, are pushing to hold off any new treaty taking effect until 2020. Yet, scientists warn that emissions must peak this decade and decline rapidly if nations are to meet their previous pledges of holding down warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Despite widespread pessimism that Durban will accomplish what is needed to stem catastrophic climate change, South African president, Jacob Zuma, said on the first day: "Nothing is impossible in Durban over the next two weeks."













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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (November 30, 2011).

Another record breaker: 2011 warmest La Niña year ever .

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1130-hance_lanina_record.html