Washington: Last year tied for the warmest since data started in 1880, capping a decade of record high temperatures that shows mankind's greenhouse gas emissions are heating the planet, a US agency said.
Global surface temperatures in 2010 were 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (0.62 Celsius) above the 20th century average, tying the record set in 2005, the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Wednesday.
"These results show that the climate is continuing to show the influence of greenhouse gases. It's showing evidence of warming," David Easterling, the chief of the scientific services division at the NCDC, told reporters in a teleconference.
Many places, such as Russia and Pakistan, suffered from heat waves and floods that killed thousands, scorched crops and inundated countless farm acres. Those events, caused in part by a shifted jet stream in the atmosphere, helped lead to record global food prices and threaten to lead to food riots like those seen in 2008.
It's not possible to directly link global warming as the cause of one weather event. But the trend of rising temperatures since 2000 increases the possibility of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods, Easterling said. Every year since 2000 has ranked as one of the 15 warmest years on record, he said.
Last year was also the wettest on record and a warmer atmosphere holds more water, which in general can result in more floods, he said.
The report did not predict weather in the future. But the U.N. climate science panel says weather is likely to be more extreme this century because of a build up of gases released by burning fossil fuels and forest destruction.
Jay Gulledge, the senior scientist at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said farmers and others can adjust to expected warmer temperatures, but preparing for extreme weather is harder. "We've got really immense potential right now to have even bigger impacts from the direct effects of extreme events," he said.
As the weather warmed, the world did not do enough to prevent future climate change, scientists said.
At U.N. climate talks in Cancun late last year nearly 200 countries agreed to set a target of limiting a rise in average world temperatures to below 2 degrees C (3.6 F) over pre-industrial times.
But promised emissions curbs by big polluters such as China and the United States are not enough to achieve that goal and tougher actions are needed, climate scientists said.
NOAA's report was the first of four major ones on global 2010 temperatures. NASA will issue its report as soon as this week, and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre and the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization are expected to report later this month.