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20. Extreme Weather Prompts New Warning from UN

UK INDEPENDENT, July 2003
Title: “Extreme Weather Prompts Unprecedented Global Warming Alert”

Mainstream media coverage: CNN July 3, 2003; USA Today October 29, 2003; The New York Times December 17, 2003

Faculty Evaluator: Ervand Peterson Ph.D.
Student Researchers: Shannon Arthur, Cassie Cyphers, Melissa Jones

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) views the events of 2003 in Europe, America and Asia as so astonishing that the world needs to be made aware of it immediately. The WMO reports extreme weather and climate occurrences all over the world. Reports on record high and low temperatures, record rainfall, and record storms in different parts of the world are consistent with the predictions of global warming. The significance of this particular report is that it comes from the highly respected UN organization known for its conservative predictions and statements. Based in Geneva, the WMO collects its information from the weather services of 185 countries.

Supercomputer models show that, as the atmosphere warms, the climate is not only becoming hotter, but very unstable, with the number of extreme events more likely to increase. In southern France record temperatures were recorded in June 2003. Temperatures rose above 104ºF (40°C) in some places, which is 9 to 13º F above average. In Switzerland, it was the hottest June in over 250 years. In Geneva, daytime temperatures made it the hottest June ever recorded.

In the United States there were 562 tornadoes in the month of May, causing 41 deaths. This year’s pre-monsoon heat wave in India brought about temperatures of 113ºF (45°C), which is 4 to 9ºF above normal. This extreme heat was responsible for at least 1,400 deaths. In Sri Lanka, heavy rainfall from tropical Cyclone 01B resulted in floods and landslides, killing at least 300 people. The infrastructure and the economy of southwest Sri Lanka were heavily damaged. England and Wales experienced the warmest June since 1976 with average temperatures of 61ºF (16°C).

A WMO representative said, “New record extreme events occur every year somewhere in the globe, but in recent years the number of such extremes has been increasing.” Extreme heat waves that scorched Europe in August 2003 were responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. The Earth Policy Institute reports there were 35, 118 deaths. Most of the deaths occurred in France with 14,802 fatalities, followed by Germany with 7,000 and Spain and Italy each suffering over 4,000 losses. The United Kingdom, Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium combined had over 4,000 deaths.

According to recent reports of the joint WMO/United Nations Environmental Panel on Climate Change, the global average surface temperature has increased around 1°F since 1861. New analyses of proxy data for the Northern Hemisphere indicate that in the 21st century increases are likely to be the largest in any century over the past 1,000 years. Average global land and sea surface temperatures in May 2003 were the second highest since records began in 1880. The ten hottest years in the 143-year-old global temperature record have all been since 1990, with the three hottest being 1998, 2001 and 2002.

Document last updated 10/26/2004.

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