The unusually warm winter which is now coming to an end caused headlines in Germany, with ski resorts suffering from lack of snow and animals unable to hibernate. Now it turns out that this winter was the warmest on record, according to the American government agency that tracks weather.
The combined global land and surface ocean temperature in the months from December until February was at its highest since records began in 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Thursday. The report comes just weeks after the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which brought climate change to the top of the political agenda, and is likely to be seen as further evidence for global warming.
Record temperatures in January helped push up the combined winter temperature, the agency reported. "Contributing factors were the long-term trend toward warmer temperatures as well as a moderate El Niño in the Pacific," Jay Lawrimore from the NOAA's National Climatic Data Center told the news agency Reuters. The climatic phenomenon known as El Niño is a periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean.
Tthe researchers cautioned against over-interpreting the new report. "We don't say this winter is evidence of the influence of greenhouse gases," Lawrimore said. However he added that research by his and other institutes as part of the IPCC supported the conclusion that "the warming trend is due in part to rises in greenhouse gas emissions."
The combined temperature for the December to February period was 0.72 degrees Celsius (1.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th century mean, the agency reported. The report also said that global temperatures have increased by about 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, but that the rate of increase has been three times larger since 1976.
The second warmest winter on record was in 2004, and the third warmest winter was in 1998. The 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1995.