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2004: Fourth warmest year

Vinson Kurian

Thiruvananthapuram , Dec. 17

THE global mean surface temperature in 2004 is expected to be +0.44C above the 1961-1990 annual average (14C), according to records maintained by members of the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

This places 2004 as the fourth warmest year in the temperature record since 1861, just behind 2003 (+0.49C), says the preliminary report prepared in the run-up to the Annual WMO Statement on the Status of Global Climate 2004, copy of which is available with Business Line.

The report said that 1998 remains the warmest year when surface temperatures averaged +0.54C above the same 30-year mean.

The last 10 years (1995-2004), with the exception of 1996, are among the warmest 10 years on record.

Cold snap: Cold weather since late December 2003 was blamed for as many as 600 deaths across South Asia. During January 2004, maximum and minimum temperatures were below normal by 6-10C across northern India and Bangladesh. Precipitation in 2004 was above average for the globe and 2004 was the wettest year since 2000.

The Asian summer monsoon during June-September brought heavy rain and flooding to parts of northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh, leaving millions stranded.

Throughout India, Nepal and Bangladesh, 1,800 deaths were blamed on flooding brought by heavy monsoon rains.

Flooding in northeast India and Bangladesh was the worst in over a decade. For India, the 2004 seasonal rainfall during the summer monsoon season over the country as a whole was 13 per cent below normal with 18 per cent of the country experiencing moderate drought conditions.

Weak El Nino on: By early November, positive equatorial sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies greater than +1 C were observed from central to eastern Pacific. SSTs in the far eastern tropical Pacific also warmed to slightly above-average levels.

The Tahiti-Darwin Southern Oscillation Index has been negative since June 2003, but has fluctuated considerably. The tropical Pacific atmospheric conditions have continued to show only some weak characteristics of El Nino. During the Atlantic hurricane season, 15 named tropical storms developed - the average is around 10.

In August, eight tropical storms formed, which is a record for the most named storms during the month in any year. Since 1995, there has been a marked increase in the annual number of tropical storms in the Atlantic Basin.

In the Northwest Pacific, 27 named storms developed, which is close to the 1971-2000 average of 26.7. Nineteen of them reached typhoon intensity. Ten tropical cyclones made landfall in Japan (breaking the previous record of six), which were blamed for 209 fatalities and extensive damage to property.

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