The Earth?s temperature in the year 2001 was the second highest since global records began 140 years ago, according to the UN?s World Meteorological Organization.The higher temperatures led to an increase in the severity and frequency of storms and to droughts and other unusual weather conditions.

Nine of the 10 warmest years in the last four decades have occurred since 1990, and temperatures are rising three times faster than in the early 1900s, he says. This year?s global average surface temperature is expected to be 57.96 Fahrenheit. The record, set in 1998, was 58.24 Fahrenheit.

?Much of the temperature change is down to human influence,? says Ken Davidson, director of the organization?s climate program department. ?There are always skeptics on everything, but certainly the evidence we have today shows we do have global warming, and that most of this is due to human action.?

Many scientists believe the warming, if not stopped, will cause severe climate changes over the next century. Michel Jarraud, of the UN World Meteorological Organization, says that while greenhouse gas emissions in 2100 can?t be predicted, ?continued pollution at today?s rate or faster presents several risks, especially a rise in sea-levels? as polar ice melts. ?Many of the world?s fastest developing cities are by the sea, and they could face floods, land erosion, and the pollution by salt water of fresh water supplies,? he says.

Working from the world?s largest statistical weather database, NOAA scientists have also announced that the year 2001 will be the second warmest on record. They say that 2001 was the fifth most active Atlantic hurricane season, with drought in parts of U.S. and record cold in Siberia and western Asia.

Based on data received throughout the year and depending on conditions during the remaining weeks of December, the average annual global temperature is projected to be 57.8 F, which is 0.9 F above the 1880-2000 long-term average, which would make 2001 the second warmest year on record. The warmest year on record, 1998, occurred during a strong El Nino event and was 1.2 F above the long-term average. Other years in the top five warmest are 1997, 1995 and 1990.

Warmer than average temperatures were experienced in much of the western half of the U.S. throughout most of 2001, while the Southeast experienced cooler than normal conditions during the summer months. Nevada had its record warmest May, August, September and fall season (September-November) in 2001. New Mexico also had its warmest fall on record. In the U.S., 2001 was the second warmest November on record; 1999 was the warmest. Alaska experienced its warmest winter on record with more than a 12.0 F increase compared to the long-term (1918-2000) average.

Although the Atlantic hurricane season had a late start, there were 15 tropical storms in 2001, nine of which became hurricanes with four reaching major hurricane strength. This was the fifth most active season since 1871. A tendency for greater hurricane activity has occurred over the past seven years after more than two decades of generally below-average activity. NOAA scientists believe this may be due to a natural ocean cycle which causes an ocean surface temperature shift between warm and cool phases, with each phase lasting 25 to 40 years.

Five or more major hurricanes (with winds in excess of 111 mph) occurred in 1995, 1996 and 1999. Prior to 1995, five or more major Atlantic hurricanes had not occurred in one season since 1964. A new record number of hurricanes for November was set in 2001. The U.S. has not been hit directly by a hurricane now for the past two years, although tropical storms, such as Tropical Storm Allison, have caused major damage. Allison, the costliest tropical storm on record at $5 billion in damage, caused severe flooding in Texas and Louisiana before moving across the Southeast and up the East Coast.

Even though the Atlantic hurricane season was above average for the fourth consecutive year, there were fewer tornadoes in 2001 than average. Eight very strong to violent tornadoes (with winds in excess of 158 mph) occurred between March and August 2001. This was much less than the 1950-2000 average of 38.

Drought hit much of the western, East Coast and New England states in 2001. April 2001 was the driest such month on record for both New York and Maine and during the Autumn. Maine had its driest year on record.

The Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains states experienced wetter than normal conditions. Precipitation across the Great Lakes and northern Great Plains states was abundant, with flooding along the Mississippi River in April, while Tropical Storms Allison and Barry caused significant flooding along the Gulf Coast states, ending drought conditions in this region.

The 2001 wildfire season began later than usual, but escalated rapidly. The level of activity for the season was similar to the 10-year average (1990-1999), although Florida, Nevada, Washington and Oregon had more fires than usual. Dry conditions contributed to the increased wildfire activity in these states. This near-average season follows the worst fire season in more than 50 years last year in the southern and western regions of the country. Almost 3.5 million acres burned during 2001.

Outside the U.S., drought conditions continued across portions of Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Iran. This region has suffered from an extreme lack of precipitation for more than three years and the drought in Afghanistan is the worst in 30 years. Much of Siberia and western Asia experienced their harshest winter in decades. Temperatures ranged from -60 F to as low as -94 F during January and February. Heavy snows in South Korea were the worst in 20 years.

The UN?s Michel Jarraud says, ?Temperatures are getting hotter, and they are getting hotter faster now than at any time in the past.?

To check the NOAA website,click here.

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