Monday, February 19, 2007

In case you didn't notice it, the average global temperature last month was the highest for any January on record, climbing to 55.13 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 1.53 degrees warmer than the 20th-century average. According to NOAA, the global reading, an average of measurements taken over land and sea, beat out the previous record set in January 2002 at 54.88 degrees.

The most unusually warm temperatures were measured in large parts of Eastern Europe and Russia, which experienced temperatures more than 8 degrees above average. Temperatures in much of Canada were more than 5 degrees above average. The snow cover in January in Europe and Asia was the second lowest on record.

The warm January was at least partly the result of an El NiƱo weather pattern that began last September and continued into January, combined with the continuing global warming trend. Although no single weather event or warm month can be blamed on global warming, more extreme conditions are likely as the planet's climate changes, and strings of warm months are evidence of climate change.

If you did miss it, it might have been because the warming was less pronounced in the U.S., where the average January temperature was just under 1 degree above the 20th century average. An upper-level wind pattern brought warmer-than-average temperatures to the East and colder-than-average temperatures to the southern Plains states and much of the West. Hundreds of daily low temperature records were broken during a mid-January cold snap in Arizona and southern California.

Snowfall was below average in most of the Rockies, meaning that water supplies could plummet later this year. Drought is already occurring in 25 percent of the contiguous United States, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Droughts are worst now in southern Texas, Wyoming, the western High Plains and northern Minnesota.

Last year was a record warm year in the United States. The past nine years are all among the 25 warmest on record for the contiguous United States, a streak unprecedented in records dating back to 1896.

2007 could be the warmest year yet globally.

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