2002 Confirmed as 2nd Warmest Year on Record

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 18, 2002 (ENS) - The warmest year on record is 1998, but the year 2002 will be recorded as a close second. The World Meteorological Organization forecasts in its annual global climate status report that 2002 will replace last year as the second warmest in the instrumental record. The warmest year in the 1860 to present record for land and sea surface areas remains 1998.

WMO

World Meteorological Organization Headquarters in Geneva (Photo courtesy WMO)
The global mean surface temperature for 2002 is expected to be approximately 0.50 degrees Celsius above the 1961-90 annual mean value.

The WMO forecast is based on observations to the end of November from a network of land based weather stations, ships and buoys. The data are collected and disseminated on a continuing basis by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of the WMO member nations. Currently, 179 nations and six territories are WMO Members.

The 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1987, nine since 1990.

Over the course of 2002, El Niño climate conditions returned to the tropical Pacific Ocean, the WMO said. By mid-year 2002, characteristic El Niño sea surface temperature and then sea level pressure patterns became well established, although smaller than the 1997-98 El Niño event.

After a mild 2001-02 winter in many areas, especially in the Great Lakes region, Canada recorded its fifth coldest spring overall, the WMO reported. In parts of western Canada, spring was the coldest on record.

Drought particularly affected central and northern areas of the Prairie Provinces. Moisture deficits present at the end of 2001 in much of western regions of Canada and the United States were deepened by less than normal rainfall during winter and spring 2002, the WMO said.

fires

The huge Hayman fire and other fires in Colorado this summer (Satellite photo courtesy NASA)
Drought parched many regions, the WMO documented. In the United States, drought conditions worsened in the west, but some improvement was seen in the east. Persistent dry conditions in the western United States contributed to the second worst wildfire season in history.

There are a few bright spots to the 2002 climate picture. In Afghanistan, spring rains brought some relief after a four year drought.

The seasonal rainfall during the summer June-September monsoon in India as a whole was 19 percent below normal, qualifying 2002 as the first all India drought year since 1987.

Across West Africa, rainfall was below normal in the Sahel and the Guinea Coast region throughout much of their normal wet season. In the western Sahel, Mauritania, Senegal, and Gambia were driest, with some locations receiving only 25 to 50 percent of their normal rainfall by the end of September.

drought

Well in the arid Sahel region of Africa (Photo courtesy Aigua per al Sahel)
In the Greater Horn of Africa region, drought conditions that date to mid-1998 continued unabated in parts of the region, especially in central and southern Ethiopia.

Warmer than normal conditions for the year as a whole occurred across most of Asia, especially in Mongolia and to the north.

Floods, too, were extreme in the year 2002. During the first two weeks of August, exceptionally heavy rains in Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Romania, Slovakia caused flooding of historic proportions on the Elbe and Danube rivers. A number of rainfall records were set and the flood exceeded all historic levels in some places. More than 100 deaths were reported with more than 450,000 forced to evacuate. Damage was estimated at US$9 billion in Germany alone.

September 2002 was also the most active tropical storm month on record in the Atlantic Basin. Twice the normal number of storm systems, eight, affected the United States.

WMO’s global temperature analyses are based on two sets of data. One is maintained by the Hadley Centre of the Met Office, UK, and the Climatic Research Unit, East Anglia University, UK.

Another authoritative global surface temperature data set, is maintained by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Both project that 2002 will be the second warmest year globally.