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CLIMATE SCIENCE
2013 another unusually warm year across globe, US says
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Jan 21, 2014


Global surface temperatures relative to 1951-1980. The Nino index is based on sea surface temper- ature in the Nino 3.4 area (5N-5S, 120-170W) in the eastern tropical Pacific2 for 1951-1980 base period. Green triangles mark times of volcanic eruptions that produced an extensive stratospheric aerosol layer.

Slowing of Atlantic currents could bring changes in Europe's climate
Reading, England (UPI) Jan 21, 2013 - Major currents in the North Atlantic Ocean seem to be slowing down, British researchers say, which could have major impacts on weather in the United Kingdom.

A recently measured slowdown of 10 to 15 percent may be part of larger decline that began in the 1990s and shows no sign of stopping yet, scientists at the University of Reading reported Tuesday.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which brings warm tropical waters linked to the Gulf Stream up to the latitudes of Britain , is an important contributor to Europe's warm and temperate climate, they said.

This weakening of the AMOC is likely to cause a cooling of the North Atlantic Ocean, which has until recently been in a "warm" phase, and could cause a reversal of the recent pattern of wet summers in Britain, cause fewer Atlantic hurricanes, and potentially bring damaging droughts in the Sahel region of North Africa, the researchers said.

"There's lots of evidence that the AMOC is important for European climate, and seeing how these events unfold is a great opportunity to understand this influence better," Reading researcher John Robson said.

"In Britain we could see a return to drier summers, although it could also lead to more droughts in parts of Europe and Africa. However, there's quite a bit of uncertainty about how fast changes might happen, and other influences -- such as sea ice and greenhouse gases -- are also important."

Glaciers may have survived in Scotland more recently than thought
Dundee, Scotland (UPI) Jan 21, 2013 - A glacier may have still been in place in Scotland within the past 400 years, 11,000 years more recently than previously thought, a geographer has suggested.

Martin Kirkbride of Dundee University said a glacier may have survived in the Cairngorms mountain range in the eastern Highlands of Scotland in the 18th century, despite the common belief the last of the Britain's slow-moving ice and snow masses melted 11,500 years ago.

Kirkbride made the suggestion based on his studies of corries -- basin-shaped features created by glaciations -- in the Cairngorns.

His study found a small glacier in a Cairngorms corrie may have piled up granite boulders to form moraine ridges within the past few centuries in a time of cold climate known as the Little Ice Age, he said.

"Our laboratory dating indicates that the moraines were formed within the last couple of thousand years, which shows that a Scottish glacier existed more recently than we had previously thought," Kirkbride told the BBC.

"The climate of the last few millennia was at its most severe between 1650 and 1790.

"There are some anecdotal reports from that time of snow covering some of the mountain tops year-round," he said. "What we have now is the scientific evidence that there was indeed a glacier."

Last year was among a handful of the warmest on record since 1880, according to US government figures out Tuesday that provide more evidence that the planet is heating up.

Human-caused pollution and the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal have driven up greenhouse gas levels, leading to this long-term rise in temperatures, said the US space agency NASA.

Carbon dioxide is at its highest level in the atmosphere in 800,000 years, having risen from 285 parts per million in 1880 to 400 parts per million last year, NASA said.

Unless current trends change, scientists said the world should expect each of the coming decades to be warmer than the last, said NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt.

He described the warming of the past few decades as "unusual," and urged people not to judge whether climate change is happening or not based on random weather events like cold snaps."

"The long-term trends in climate are extremely robust," he told reporters.

"People have a very short memory when it comes to their own experience of weather and climate, and the only way that we can have a long-term assessment of what is going on is by looking at the data."

NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) both released their annual global figures on climate, which were independently produced but found similar increases in temperature across the planet.

According to NOAA, the average of combined land and ocean surface temperatures in 2013 was 1.12 degrees Fahrenheit (0.62 Celsius) above the 20th century average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.9 Celsius).

NOAA found that 2013 tied with 2003 as the fourth warmest year since records began in 1880, while NASA said last year ranked seventh.

However, experts said the actual temperature differences between years are very small, and that the overall trend toward a warming planet is clear.

Last year also marked the 37th year in a row with higher than average global temperatures.

All 13 years of the 21st century have been among the warmest on record, NOAA said, with the hottest being 2010, 2005, and 1998.

A key difference between last year and other top years of the past decade is that 2013 had no El Nino effect to warm the equatorial region, a weather phenomenon that would have been expected to cause an uptick in global temperatures.

Forecasters say El Nino could return in 2014, with the potential to make this coming year even hotter than last.

Another concerning effect of global warming is the melting of sea ice in the Arctic, which is expected to cause sea level rises over time that will endanger coastal communities around the world.

"Arctic sea ice is down considerably, especially over the past 10 to 11 years," said Tom Karl, director of NOAA's Climatic Data Center.

Last year marked the sixth smallest sea ice extent in the Arctic on record, while the Antarctic saw the opposite trend, and sea ice was above average.

While most of the world experienced above-average annual temperatures, a few small regions in the central United States, eastern Pacific and South America were cooler than average, according to NOAA.

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