Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Thursday, 10 December 2009

Global average temperature may hit record level in 2010

By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News

sun setting over the sea (Image: AP)
A weakening El Nino event will lower global temperatures

The global average temperature could reach a record high in 2010, according to the UK's Met Office.

Forecasters predict that the annual figure for 2010 will be 14.58C (58.24F), 0.58C (1.04F) above the long-term average of 14.0C (57.2F).

They say the combination of climate change and a moderate warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean are set to drive up temperatures next year.

The current record record is 14.52C (58.14F), which was set in 1998.

"The latest forecast from our climate scientists shows the global temperature is forecast to be almost 0.6C above the 1961-90 long-term average," a Met Office statement said.

"This means that it is more likely than not 2010 will be the warmest in the instrumental record that dates back to 1860."

However it added: "A record warm year in 2010 is not a certainty, especially if the current El Nino was to unexpectedly decline rapidly near the start of 2010, or if there was a large volcanic eruption.

"We will review the forecast during 2010 as observation data become available."

The Met Office, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, maintains one of the three global temperature records that is used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Warming world

The current record year, 1998, was dominated by an "extreme El Nino" condition - the warming of surface waters in the eastern Pacific that releases heat stored in the deep ocean into the atmosphere, raising temperatures globally.

Earlier this week, the Met Office and the World Meteorological Organization said that the first decade of this century was "by far" the warmest since the instrumental record began.

Their analyses also showed that 2009 would almost certainly be the fifth warmest in the 160-year record.

Burgeoning El Nino conditions, adding to man-made greenhouse warming, had pushed 2009 into the "top 10" years, the organisations explained.

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