2008 will go down as one of 10 warmest years | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now
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Dec 192008

From Green Right Now reports

The year 2008 is expected to finish as one of the 10th warmest years on record, since record keeping began more than 150 years ago, according to a report this week from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Also in 2008, Arctic sea ice dropped to its second-lowest level since modern satellite monitoring began in 1979.

Because NASA tracks this sea ice “extent” you can get more information from their site, and see an animation of the melt from Jan. 2008 through late summer, which is as close to an illustration of global warming as it gets. (Scientists like to point out that climate change is not the same as weather change; a given year’s weather is but one component, one frame in a film, of the overall gradual warming of the planet.)
As you can see from the above photo, you might be able to see Russia from Alaska, but you can not see any  Arctic ice in August.

The WMO estimates 2008′s global combined sea-surface and land-surface air temperature is about half of a degree Fahrenheit above the annual average temperature of of 57.2°F (14°C) from 1961-1990. However, the global average temperature in 2008 was slightly lower than in the immediate previous years because of strong La Nina pattern that cooled ocean temps, moving from the Pacific tropics and beyond.

In addition to a worsening melt of Arctic sea ice, WMO noted that 2008 saw climate extremes such as heatwaves, snow storms, devastating floods and severe and persistent droughts, manifested in the U.S. by flooding in the Midwest and drought in the Southeast.

These weather extremes included:

Regional temperature extremes — There were above-average temperatures all over Europe in 2008. In most parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden, winter was the warmest recorded since the beginning of measurements in 1850.

But a large part of Eurasia saw bitter cold, with parts of Turkey recording the coldest nights in nearly 50 years. In southern South America, particularly in Argentina, there were record-breaking low temperatures. But Argentine also had mean July temperatures more than +3°C above average, and in large parts of Argentina, Paraguay, southeast Bolivia and southern Brazil, 2008 brought the warmest July in the last 50 years. There also was a record heatwave in Australia, along with south-eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Drought — The American Southeast experienced moderate to exceptional drought, and continuous dry conditions across northern and central California hindered efforts to contain numerous large wildfires.

Southern British Columbia in Canada recorded the fifth driest period in 61 years. Portugal and Spain had their worst drought winter in decades. Other major droughts occurred in Argentina, Uruguay and south-eastern Australia.

Flooding and intense storms — Heavy April rainfall along with saturated ground and snow melt led to widespread flooding in Missouri and Indiana and 2008 became one of the 10 worst years for tornado-related fatalities.

Through August, a record 1,489 tornadoes resulted in 123 deaths.

Canada faced snowfall records. There was a large number of strong thunderstorms in Germany, and heavy rain in West and East Africa caused the worst recorded flooding in Zimbabwe.

Tropical storms — There were 16 named tropical storms in the Atlantic and eight became hurricanes, five of which reached Category 3 or higher (averages are eleven, six and two, respectively). For the first time on record, six consecutive tropical cyclones (Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) made landfall on the United States, and a record three major hurricanes (Gustav, Ike and Paloma) hit Cuba.

The East Pacific had 17 named tropical storms, of which 7 evolved into hurricanes and 2 of them into major hurricanes (averages are 16, 9 and 4, respectively).

Artic sea ice down –  During the 2008 melt season, the overall ice volume fell to less than that in any other year. In a widely reported event, nearly one-quarter of the massive ancient ice shelves on Ellesmere Island collapsed.