Calling it a 'startling forecast,' scientists at the British Meteorological Office said Thursday that the potential for a record 2007 arises from an El Nino warming pattern already established in the Pacific. The El Nino is expected to persist through the first few months of 2007.
An El Nino is a warm ocean current that typically appears around Christmas time off the coast of Peru and lasts for several months, but may persist into May or June.
The huge temperature shift in the Pacific Ocean spawns climate changes globally. El Nino climatic events include heavy rains and blustery storms as well as drought with associated wildfires.
The lag between El Nino and the full global surface temperature response means that the warming effect of El Nino is extended, therefore it has a greater influence on global temperatures during the year, the Met office said.
There is a 60 percent probability that 2007 will be as warm or warmer than the current warmest year, which was 1998. Temperatures are expected to rise +0.52 degrees Celsius, above the long-term 1961-1990 average, according to the Met office forecast.
The global temperature for 2007 is expected to be 0.54 °C above the long-term average of 14.0 °C.
Katie Hopkins from Met Office Consulting said, 'This new information represents another warning that climate change is happening around the world. Our work in the climate change consultancy team applies Met Office research to help businesses mitigate against risk and adapt at a strategic level for success in the new environment.'
Each January the Met Office, in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, issues a forecast of the global surface temperature for the coming year.
The forecast takes into account contributing factors, such as solar effects, El Nino, and greenhouse gases concentrations.
Over the previous seven years, the Met Office forecast of annual global temperature has proved accurate, with a mean forecast error size of just 0.06 °C.
Thursday's forecast follows news that 2006 was the warmest year on record across the UK.
Professor Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, said of 2006, 'This year sees the highest average temperature recorded since the Central England Temperature series began in 1659, and the rise above the average is significantly higher than that for the two hottest years we have experienced.'
While some scientists still deny that human activities such as combustion of coal, oil and natural gas are responsible for global warming, others are finding more evidence of such links.
Met Office climate scientist David Parker said, '2006 has been quite extraordinary in terms of the UK temperature, with several records being broken. The figures support recent research from Professor David Karoly of the University of Oklahoma and Dr. Peter Stott at the Met Office, which showed links between human behavior and the warming trend.'
New research published in September shows that rising sea surface temperatures in hurricane 'breeding grounds' of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are unlikely to be purely natural in origin.
Using 22 different computer models of the climate system, atmospheric scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States and 10 other research centers, including the Climatic Research Unit, demonstrated that the warming of the tropical Atlantic and Pacific oceans over the last century is directly linked to human activities.
'In the real world, we're performing an uncontrolled experiment by burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases,' said Benjamin Santer of Livermore's Program for Climate Modeling and Intercomparison, and lead author of the paper.
'The bottom line,' said Santer, 'is that natural processes alone simply cannot explain the observed sea surface temperature increases in these hurricane breeding grounds. The best explanation for these changes has to include a large human influence.'
The effects of global warming are likely to be extensive. Climate change will directly affect future food availability and compound the difficulties of feeding the world’s rapidly growing population, an official of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization said at the opening of a UN climate change conference in November.
In an address to the conference’s scientific and technical body, Castro Paulino Camarada, FAO representative in Kenya, stressed that greater attention must be given to the impact of climate change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and on mitigation and adaptation measures.
Rising sea levels that could flood coastal communities, the spread of tropical diseases northward, and the extinction of ice dependent species are all projected as effects of climate change.
At the same UN conference, Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace climate and energy policy advisor, said, 'The worst impacts of climate change can be prevented, but only if governments act now. Future generations will not forgive us if we delay.'