Climate change: Warmest decade on record excites activists, actuaries

Looks like that Climategate thing is about to kick into high gear again. Refuting the claims of global-warning critics, the World Meteorological Organization today released findings showing that the past decade was the hottest recorded in the 150 years that scientists have collected global temperature records (year-to-year temperature fluctuations notwithstanding). Both sides of the climate-change debate have already seized upon the report as conclusive evidence that carbon emissions are either causing global warming or proof of scientific chicanery gobbled up by the mainstream media.
The report remains preliminary, pending final data readings for 2009 and 2010, and was built using climate data from weather and climate stations, ships and buoys, and satellites. This information is collected and distributed to the 189 participating member nations of the WMO and analyzed by the three main depository global climate data and analysis centers, which each contribute analysis to be combined into a global WMO report released each decade.

The three centers include the Hadley Centre of the U.K. Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Goddard Institute of Space Studies operated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The Climategate Scandal

The Hadley Centre was a prominent player in the Climategate scandal, in which email from scientists at this laboratory were recently splashed across the Internet. "The content of the WMO statement," the report says, "is verified and peer-reviewed by leading experts from other international, regional and national climate institutions and centres before its publication."

The U.N., the U.S., and numerous global scientific bodies have taken pains to underscore that the evidence for man-made global warming remains overwhelming.

Changing Weather Patterns

The one part of the world that has shown cooler-than-average temperatures this year is North America: home of the world's most vocal global-warming critics. But the report also implies that a long-predicted scenario of greater temperature fluctuations and more violent storms and weather pattens has already taken shape:
Climate extremes, including devastating floods, severe droughts, snowstorms, heatwaves and cold waves, were recorded in many parts of the world. This year the extreme warm events were more frequent and intense in southern South America, Australia and southern Asia, in particular. La Niña conditions shifted into a warm-phase El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in June. The Arctic sea ice extent during the melt season ranked the third lowest, after the lowest and second-lowest records set in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
The rise of such extreme weather patterns is precisely why some of the more sober minds on Earth -- insurance actuaries -- are putting massive multitrillion price tags on the likely impacts of climate change. (We've blogged about China's $9 trillion climate problem.) The WMO data appears to verify further that the insurance guys are right: that we're looking at a costly era of wild weather, and all the disasters that go with it.

Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at alex@dailyfinance.com.

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