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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 18:59 GMT
2001 'warm, but no record'
Traffic in snow   PA
Winter's here: But this is set to have been one of the warmest years
Alex Kirby

This year looks almost certain to prove the second warmest in global terms since records began.

It appears set to beat 1997, previously the second warmest year, by a whisker. Both years, though, lag appreciably behind the warmest year of them all, 1998.

In the UK several records were broken, but 2001 as a whole is far from being the country's warmest year.

The UK Met Office and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have compiled the 2001 statistics using data from land and sea. The data have been analysed by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Warming trend

The figures, which remain provisional until the end of the year, place 2001 second in the list of the world's hottest years since records began 142 years ago.

Girl thrown in fountain   AP
Cooling down: It was warm
The Met Office says: "Globally, the current trend of very warm years continues. Nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1990, including 1999 and 2000; only 1998 was warmer than 2001.

"Average global temperatures have risen by more than 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years, although the rise has not been continuous."

Professor Phil Jones of UEA's Climatic Research Unit told BBC News Online: "It will be touch and go whether 2001 beats 1997 or not.

"Both years have a value of about 0.42 degrees C above the 1961-90 average, but they are both well down on 1998 at 0.58 degrees C."

Bedraggled Britain

The Met Office said: "According to a forecasting technique developed at our Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, the global surface temperature for 2002 is expected to be 0.47 degrees C above the 1961-1990 average.

Flooded Cambridge street   PA
Floods came back to the UK
"There is about a 75% probability that 2002 will be warmer than 2001, but only about a 10% likelihood that 2002 will be as warm as or warmer than 1998.

"Across England and Wales, the year saw the warmest October on record with an average Central England Temperature (CET) of 13.3 degrees C, 2.7 degrees C above the 1961-1990 average.

"The copious rains of 2000 continued into early 2001, making the 24-month period up to March the wettest in England and Wales since 1766.

Far from extraordinary

"Although October was wet, so far November and December have been drier than average. Up to 15 December, this year's rainfall total, averaged across England and Wales, is 938 millimetres - nearly 10% above average.

"The total in Scotland so far is about 10% below average; Northern Ireland has had a very dry year, with a rainfall total of more than 20% below average."

David Parker, of the Hadley Centre, said this year's CET was expected to be between 0.5 degrees C and 0.6 degrees C above the 1961-1990 average, but more than half a degree short of the warmest years, 1949, 1990 and 1999.

There had been between 30 and 40 years warmer than 2001 in the 343-year history of the CET.

See also:

17 Dec 01 | Europe
Europe battles snow and floods
17 Nov 01 | England
Autumn trees leave it late
14 Nov 01 | Sci/Tech
Wildlife will wander in warmer world
06 Nov 01 | England
Nice weather fools ducks
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