Europe shivers, but world is getting hotter

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GENEVA (Reuters) - It might feel cold in Europe but the world is getting hotter and global warming remains a danger, the United Nations weather agency WMO said Friday.

“The Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, Michel Jarraud, has stressed that we mustn’t confuse the current weather that we’re seeing with global warming,” WMO spokeswoman Gaelle Sevenier told a news briefing.

Temperatures have plunged to record lows in Germany and heavy snow brought Marseille in normally sunny southern France to a standstill Thursday. Switzerland was shivering under temperatures of below 0 Celsius for the eighth day in a row.

Weather studies since 1850 show an undeniable increase in temperature, Sevenier said.

“Mr Jarraud noted that there can be no doubt that the trend is still toward warming and that the temperature of the surface of the earth has risen by three quarters of a degree since the mid-19th century,” she said.

Most scientists believe global warming is creating extremes of weather bringing death and destruction through hurricanes, floods and drought.

While 2008 was cooler than the previous year, it was the 10th warmest year since records started, Sevenier noted.

She said the cold snap in Europe was due to the “La Nina” phenomenon, in which surface water in parts of the Pacific Ocean is cooler than usual. Through complex meteorological processes that can influence weather over the Atlantic Ocean.

La Nina -- which means “little girl” in Spanish -- is a periodic phenomenon that alternates with “El Nino” or “little boy,” where water is warmer than usual. Both can affect weather around the world.

Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay