The year 2004, punctuated by four powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and deadly typhoons lashing Asia, was the fourth-hottest on record.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina The year 2004, punctuated by four powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and deadly typhoons lashing Asia, was the fourth-hottest on record, extending a trend that has registered the 10 warmest years since 1990, a U.N. weather agency said yesterday.
The year also was the most expensive for the insurance industry in coping with hurricanes, typhoons and other weather-related natural disasters, according to new figures released by U.N. environmental officials.
The release of the report by the World Meteorological Organization came as environmental ministers from 80 countries gathered in Buenos Aires for a U.N. conference on climate change, looking at ways to cut greenhouse gases that some say contribute heavily to Earth’s warming.
Scientists say a sustained increase in temperatures is likely to continue disrupting the global climate, increasing the intensity of storms, potentially drying up farmlands and raising ocean levels, among other things.
Michel Jarraud, the World Meteorological Organization secretary-general, said the warming and increased storm activity could not be attributed to any particular cause but was part of a global-warming trend that was likely to continue.
Scientists have reported that temperatures rose an average of 1 degree over the past century with the rate of change since 1976 at roughly three times that over the past 100 years.
The World Meteorological Organization said it expects Earth’s average surface temperature to rise 0.8 degrees above the normal 57 degrees Fahrenheit in 2004, adding this year to a recent pattern that included the four warmest years on record, with the hottest being 1998.
October also registered as the warmest October since accurate readings began in 1861, said the agency.
Summer heat waves in southern Europe pushed temperatures to near-record highs in southern Spain, Portugal and Romania, where thermostats peaked at 104 degrees while the rest of Europe sweltered through above-average temperatures.
The extreme weather of 2004 extended to storms.
The Caribbean had four hurricanes that reached Category 4 or 5 status those capable of causing extreme and catastrophic damage. It was only the fourth time in recent history that so many were recorded. The hurricanes of 2004 caused more than $43 billion in damages in the Caribbean and the United States.
Japan and the Philippines also saw increased extreme tropical weather, with deadly typhoons lashing both islands. Japan registered a record number of typhoons making landfall this year with 10, while back-to-back storms in the Philippines killed at least 740 people in the wettest year for the globe since 2000, the U.N. agency said.
Statistics released at the climate-change conference showed that natural disasters in the first 10 months of 2004 cost the insurance industry more than $35 billion, up from $16 billion in 2003.
Munich Re, one of the world’s biggest insurance companies, said the United States tallied the highest losses at more than $26 billion.
Other parts of the world also witnessed extreme weather, with droughts occurring in the western United States, parts of Africa, Afghanistan, Australia and India. Jarraud, of the U.N. weather agency, said the droughts were part of what appears to be a surge over the past decade.
The prolonged rising temperatures and deadly storms were matched by harsh winters in other regions. Peru, Chile, and southern Argentina were all hit with severe cold and snow during June and July.