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The World's Getting Hotter

The warming trend that has gripped our climate for the past 20 years will make 2000 one of the hottest years since 1860, despite La Nina's cooling effect on the tropical Pacific and other anomalies, the United Nations weather agency said Tuesday.

This year will be the fifth or sixth warmest since 1860, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said. Eight of the 10 warmest years in the 140-year period have occurred since 1990 and 1998, when the El Nino current warmed the Pacific, was the hottest on record.

WMO Secretary-General Godwin Obasi told a news conference that 2000 was the 22nd successive year that global temperatures have been above the average of the 1961-1990 base period.

He said the WMO findings on rising temperatures were consistent with global warming, a phenomenon blamed on emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide.

U.N. environment talks in The Hague last month failed when the European Union and the United States disagreed on how to carry out reductions in emissions of such gasses agreed upon in Kyoto in 1997.

Obasi, a Nigerian meteorologist who heads the Geneva-based agency, called on governments to further curb greenhouse gas emissions, which are increasing each year.

"The climate of 2000 represents a continuation of the global warming conditions that have persisted throughout the 1990s," he said. "It is consistent with a warmer planet.

"I think we have to take it seriously to curtail the emission of greenhouse gases and this accumulation in the atmosphere. That is the only way somehow that we can start addressing the issue of global warming."

Many scientists say global warming caused by heat-trapping gases could lead to chaotic weather, higher sea levels, increased disease and disruption in food supplies.

This year the global average surface temperature is likely to be about 0.58 degrees Fahrenheit above the average for 1961-1990 and 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit above temperatures at the start of the 20th century, according to the WMO.

It has been similar to 1999, the fifth warmest year since instruments began recording temperatures 140 years ago.

"The year 2000 was much like those of the 1990s; some areas of the globe experienced extreme heat, extreme cold, extreme rainfall and extreme drought, while many others experienced near normal conditions, but when averaged together the global climate continues to be warmer than normal," the WMO statement said.

The data, collected by the WMO network of 10,000 weather monitoring stations, show Japan will have had its fifth warmest year in 103 years, Canada its sixth warmest and the United States between its seventh and 12th warmest since 1895.

"In North America, drought conditions prevailed through northern Mexico to the southern and western United States. That drought led to the most serious wildfire conditions in over 50 years," Obasi said. "In conrast to the drought situation, many parts of the world experienced severe flooding."

Italy, Switzerland, Britain, Colombia, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam recorded severe flooding in 2000.

WMO officials said El Nino — the warming current in the eastern Pacific Ocean whose effects on the global climate caused an estimated $34 billion to $38 billion in damage in 1997-98 — was not expected to return until near the end of 2001 at the earliest.

"At the moment we have fairly neutral conditions in the Pacific Ocean, although there has been something of a recent resurgence of La Nina conditions. None of the models at the present time are predicting an El Nino for the foreseeable six to nine months," said Michael Harrison, WMO chief of climate.

"The earliest we may get an El Nino is toward the end of next year, on present evidence," he added.

The WMO's annual statement on the climate was issued a day after the United States rejected an invitation to reopen climate talks with the EU, killing the latest effort to forge an international strategy on global warming.

Norway had offered to host a meeting at the end of this week between the EU and a U.S.-led group that included Canada, Japan and Australia, to give the two sides a chance to resolve the differences that sank the talks in The Hague last month.

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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