* Temperatures far above 20th century average - NOAA, NASA
* Long-term warming trend caused by man-made emissions
* Temperatures creeping close to ceiling set in Paris deal
(Updates with UN data, comments, link to graphic)
By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle
OSLO, Jan 18 World temperatures hit a record
high for the third year in a row in 2016, creeping closer to a
ceiling set by the Paris climate change deal, with extremes
including unprecedented heat in India and ice melt in the
Arctic, scientists said on Wednesday.
The findings, providing new signs of the impact of
greenhouse gases, were issued two days before the inauguration
of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who questions whether
climate change has a human cause.
Average global surface temperatures in 2016 were 0.83 degree
Celsius (1.5 Fahrenheit) above a long-term average of 14 degrees
Celsius (57.2F) from 1961-1990, according to the U.N.-affiliated
World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in Geneva.
Temperatures, lifted mainly by man-made greenhouse gases and
partly by a natural El Nino weather event that released heat
from the Pacific Ocean, beat the previous record in 2015, when
200 nations agreed a plan to limit global warming.
That peak had in turn eclipsed 2014.
"We don't expect record years every year, but the ongoing
long-term warming trend is clear," said Gavin Schmidt, director
of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
The WMO data were based on records compiled by NASA, the
U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and
Britain's Met Office.
Global temperature records date back to the 1880s. It was
only the second run of three record-breaking years after
1939-41, said Deke Arndt of NOAA's National Centers for
Temperatures this year are unlikely to set a new record
after the fading of El Nino, scientists said. But heat-trapping
gases from burning fossil fuels, especially from China and the
United States, will keep building up in the atmosphere.
"Unless we have a major volcanic eruption, I expect the
record to be broken again within a few years," said Piers
Forster, climate expert at the University of Leeds. Ash from big
eruptions can dim sunlight.
Among last year's extreme weather events, wildfires in
Alberta were the costliest natural disaster in Canada's history,
while Phalodi in western India recorded a temperature of 51
degrees Celsius (123.8 Fahrenheit) on May 19, a national record.
North America also had its warmest year on record, the Great
Barrier Reef off Australia suffered severe damage from rising
temperatures, and sea ice in both the Arctic Ocean and around
Antarctica is at record lows for mid-January.
At a summit in Paris in late 2015, governments agreed a plan
to phase out fossil fuels this century and shift to renewable
energies such as wind and solar power.
They agreed to limit warming to "well below" 2 degrees
Celsius (3.6F) above pre-industrial times, while pursuing
efforts for a 1.5C (2.7F) limit. By that yardstick, the WMO said
temperatures in 2016 were 1.1C (2.0F) above pre-industrial
"Long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached
new heights in 2016," said Petteri Taalaas, head of the WMO,
referring to rising levels of carbon dioxide and methane.
He also said that warming was having other knock-on effects,
such as melting Greenland ice that is pushing up sea levels.
Trump, who has described climate change as a hoax, has
threatened to cancel the Paris Agreement and shift to exploiting
cheap domestic coal, oil and gas. At a meeting in Marrakesh days
after Trump's victory, however, almost 200 nations said it was
an "urgent duty" to combat climate change.
Trump's choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency,
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, was quizzed by
Democratic senators at a confirmation hearing on Wednesday about
his fossil fuel industry ties.
"The hottest year on record is such a clear warning siren
that even President-elect Trump cannot ignore," said Mark
Maslin, Professor of Climatology at University College London.
(Reporting by Alister Doyle; editing by Mark Heinrich)