2012 marked by extreme weather, Arctic ice melt: UN

GENEVA - Extreme temperatures and violent weather afflicted the planet this year, with heatwaves, droughts, floods and devastating storms as well as unprecedented ice melt in the Arctic, the UN weather agency said Wednesday.

"Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so," World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) chief Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

January-October 2012 was the ninth warmest such period since records began in 1850, the WMO said.

The global land and ocean surface temperature for the period was about 0.45 degrees Celsius (0.81 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 1961-1990 average of 14.2 C (57.56 F), it said.

"Notable extreme events were observed worldwide, but some parts of the northern hemisphere were affected by multiple extremes," it added.

The report, comprising preliminary weather data for 2012, coincides with the annual UN climate talks, taking place this year in Doha, Qatar.

The Geneva-based agency warned that the higher temperatures came despite the cooling influence of the La Nina weather phenomenon in the tropical Pacific Ocean at the beginning of the year.

Phenomena like La Nina may affect temperatures and precipitation, "but they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities," Jarraud warned.

The WMO also raised the alarm over unprecedented melt of Arctic sea ice, confirming data published in September by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Arctic sea ice cover shrank to just 3.4 million square kilometres (1.32 million square miles) at its annual low point on September 16 - 18 per cent less than the previous record low in 2007.

The new record was also 49 per cent below the 1979-2000 average, corresponding to an additional ice loss of nearly 3.3 million square kilometres - about the size of India, the WMO said.

"In August, the Arctic sea ice lost an average of nearly 92,000 square kilometres of ice per day - the fastest observed loss for the month of August on record," the report said.

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