Warmer year for world


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The earth experienced a global heat wave this year, with record-high temperatures in 17 countries and the global average on track for a new record.

Britain's Meteorological Office predicts the global average temperature will be 14.58 degrees Celsius, compared with the record 14.52 degrees set in 1998.

Temperatures across most of Canada and Greenland were three degrees or more above normal, and Africa and South Asia was between one and three degrees warmer.

It was hot in the Arctic, too. Ice coverage last month was 12.4 per cent below average, the second-lowest for November since 1979.

So what does it all mean? Is this climate change in action?

One factor behind the high temperatures was El Nino, a weather condition in which a pool of warm water in the Pacific Ocean moves eastwards. This changes weather patterns, and in particular raises temperatures in the tropics.

El Nino is a regular part of the earth's weather patterns. This year's heat wave was also a irregularity, and scientists say one feature of climate change is more irregular weather events. The regular weather patterns are no longer as reliable as they used to be. Heat waves, cold snaps and freak storms are becoming more common.

High summer temperatures caused droughts in Thailand and Israel while hundreds of people in India died because of the heat. Russia experienced its worst heat wave in 130 years, which caused wildfires and killed thousands of people.

However, scientists say one weather condition alone does not prove or disprove climate change. Heat waves are not evidence of global warming. Europe and North America are again experiencing very cold weather.

Scientists say next year will be cooler, based on lower temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. The temperatures of the world's oceans play a big role in determining overall temperatures. That is why scientists pay attention to Arctic ice levels.

Bright white ice reflects the sun's rays, keeping the earth cool. When the ice melts, the energy of the sun is absorbed by the dark-coloured ocean, raising global temperatures.

Cameron is available to speak to students about environmental and climate change issues. E-mail [email protected] expedition.com