Factbox: 2010 hit by weather extremes: Pakistan to Russia
(Reuters) - Last year, in which extreme weather caused devastating floods in Pakistan and China and a heatwave in Russia, tied as the warmest year since records began, a U.S. government agency said on Wednesday.
The U.N. panel of climate change experts says that weather is likely to be more extreme in the 21st century because of a build-up of heat-trapping gases from human use of fossil fuels.
Last year tied with 2005 as the warmest since global surface records began in 1880, according to the National Climatic Data Center, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Following are examples of extreme weather in 2010.
PAKISTAN FLOODS - Pakistan had its worst flooding in its history after exceptional monsoon rains, killing more than 1,500 people and displacing more than 20 million.
RUSSIAN HEATWAVE - Russia had its most severe heatwave, with average temperatures for Moscow a scorching 7.6 degrees Celsius (14 F) above normal in July. About 11,000 excess deaths in summer were attributed to the extreme heat in Moscow alone. The heatwave caused forest fires and drought led to crop failures that contributed to drive up world food prices. Finland, Ukraine and Belarus also had extreme high temperatures at the time.
World wheat prices rose 47 percent last year, for instance, and the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization said key grain prices could rise further.
AUSTRALIA FLOODS - Heavy rains made 2010 the third wettest year on record in Australia even before devastating floods in early 2011 that have killed 16 people. Large parts of Australia and Indonesia suffered heavy rains from May 2010, linked to the La Nina event that cools the Pacific Ocean and disrupts weather patterns.
HOT - Canada had its warmest year on record in 2010, with mean temperatures 3 degrees Celsius above normal. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver lacked snow.
Large parts of northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwest Asia also had their warmest year on record.
High temperatures included a sweltering 53.5 Celsius (128.30F) at MohenjoDaro in Pakistan, a national record and the highest temperature in Asia since at least 1942. Other highs included 52.0 degrees Celsius in Jeddah and 50.4 in Doha.
COLD - A few areas had below-average temperatures over 2010, including parts of Siberia, interior Australia, parts of the United States and Europe.
Opponents of proposed U.S. legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions seized upon blizzards in February in the eastern United States as evidence that global warming was not happening. The family of Senator James Inhofe, a Republican climate skeptic, built an igloo on Capitol Hill with a sign that said "Al Gore's new home." The bill ultimately failed, contributing to scant progress in U.N. talks toward a new climate treaty.
The winter chill in parts of Europe and the United States caused travel chaos. A thaw of Arctic sea ice, itself linked to global warming, may have driven chill air southwards, some scientists say.
OTHER EXTREMES - Floods and landslides killed more than 1,400 people in Gansu province in China. Floods in Colombia have killed about 300 people since April, displaced 2 million and caused estimated damage of up to $5.2 billion.
The Amazon basin was hit by drought and the Rio Negro, a major Amazon tributary, fell to its lowest level on record.
EL NINO/LA NINA - The year started with a strong El Nino event in the Pacific Ocean, a naturally occurring weather phenomenon associated with warmer than normal water. It was succeeded by a cooling La Nina event.
SEA ICE - Arctic sea ice shrank in summer to the third smallest in the satellite record, behind 2007 and 2008. Antarctic sea ice was slightly bigger than normal.
(Compiled by Alister Doyle in Oslo, extra reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington. Sources: Reuters bureaus, U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)
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