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Lowest Arctic Ice Volume Ever - UN

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Arctic Ice Volume Lowest Ever as Globe Warms: UN


Date: 17-Dec-08


Author: Robert Evans


Arctic Ice Volume Lowest Ever as Globe Warms


GENEVA - Ice volume around the Arctic region hit the lowest level ever

recorded this year as climate extremes brought death and devastation

to many parts of the world, the U.N. weather agency WMO said on Tuesday.


Although the world's average temperature in 2008 was, at 14.3 degrees

Celsius (57.7 degrees Fahrenheit), by a fraction of a degree the

coolest so far this century, the direction toward a warmer climate

remained steady, it reported.


"What is happening in the Arctic is one of the key indicators of

global warming," Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of the World

Meteorological Organization (WMO), said. "The overall trend is still



A report presented by Jarraud at a news conference showed Arctic ice

cover dropping to its second lowest extent during this year's melt

season since satellite measuring began in 1979.


However, the Geneva-based agency said, "because ice was thinner in

2008, overall ice volume was less than in any other year." It added:

"The season strongly reinforced the 30-year downward trend in the

extent of Arctic Sea ice."


The dramatic collapse of a quarter of ancient ice shelves on Canada's

Ellesmere Island in the north of the Arctic Ocean added to earlier

meltdowns, reducing cover in the region from 9,000 square km (3,500 sq

miles) a century ago to just 1,000 sq kms.


The WMO said the slight slowdown in warming this year, an increase of

0.31C over the 14C of the base period 1961-90, against an average

0.43C for 2001-2007, was due to a moderate-to-strong La Nina in the

Pacific in late 2007.


"This decade is almost 0.2 degrees (Celsius) warmer compared to the

previous decade. We have to look at it in that way, comparing decades

not years," Peter Stott, a climate scientist at Britain's Hadley

Center, which provided data for the WMO report, told Reuters in London.




La Nina is a periodic weather pattern that develops when Pacific sea

water cools. It alternates irregularly with the related El Nino --

when the Pacific warms up -- and both affect the climate all round the



The WMO report was based on statistics and analyses compiled by

weather services among its 188 member countries and specialist

research institutions, including government-backed bodies in the

United States and Britain.


"Climate extremes, including devastating floods, severe and persistent

droughts, snow storms, heat waves and cold waves were recorded in many

parts of the world," the agency said. In many of these, hundreds or

even thousands of people died.


Among the disasters was Cyclone Nargis, which killed some 78,000 in

Myanmar's southern delta region in early May. In the western Atlantic

and Caribbean there were 16 major tropical storms, eight of which

developed into hurricanes.


In an average year, there are 11 storms of which six become hurricanes

and two become major hurricanes. In 2008, five major hurricanes

developed, and for the first time on record six tropical storms in a

row made landfall in the United States.


The WMO says the 10 hottest years since global records were first kept

in 1850 have all been since 1997, with the warmest at 14.79 C in 2005.

Countries have been struggling for years to reach agreement on how to

halt the trend.


This month a two-week meeting of leaders in Poznan, Poland, called to

prepare a treaty for late 2009 seemed to falter amid rows between rich

and poor nations and what some climate campaigners say was lack of

will to get things done.


-- Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn and Michael Szabo in London


(Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Michael Roddy)


© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved

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