2010 one of three hottest years

Associated Press

CANCUN, Mexico

A scorching summer that killed thousands in Russia and exceptionally mild winters in the Arctic were among extreme weather events that have put 2010 on track to be one of the three hottest years on record, U.N. experts said Thursday.

The data from the World Meteorological Organization show that the last decade was the warmest ever, part of a trend that scientists attribute to man-made pollution trapping heat in the atmosphere.

Europeans and some Americans may think it was chilly this year, but their unusually cold winters were more than balanced by searing temperatures from Canada to Africa and the Indian subcontinent, said Michel Jarraud, WMO’s secretary-general.

Parts of Greenland, where glaciers are threatened with summer melt, had an annual average temperature of 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal, said the WMO’s preliminary report, released on the sidelines of a 193-nation U.N. conference on climate change.

Moscow had 33 consecutive days when the thermometer topped 86 degrees Fahrenheit and one day when it cracked 100, a record. Russian officials ascribed 11,000 excess deaths to the heat wave and the peat fires that raged on the capital’s outskirts.

The WMO said the same extreme weather event that suffocated Russia also caused the floods that submerged a fifth of Pakistan, killing 1,700 people and displacing 20 million.

The year also witnessed heavy rains that lashed Australia and Indonesia, flooding in Thailand and Vietnam, and drought in the Amazon basin and southwest China.

Recent anecdotal evidence reinforces the science. Northern permafrost is thawing underneath buildings in Alaska, northern Canada and Siberia, causing them to tilt and crack. Children are swimming in normally frigid waters in the Arctic Ocean, and American robins have appeared in Canada’s far north for the first time. Sea ice has retreated north of Russia, opening the possibility of a summer passageway for shipping.

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