The Independent (UK)
03 July 2003
In an astonishing announcement on global warming and
extreme weather, the World Meteorological Organisation
signalled last night that the world’s weather is going
In a startling report, the WMO, which normally produces
detailed scientific reports and staid statistics at the
year’s end, highlighted record extremes in weather and
climate occurring all over the world in recent weeks,
from Switzerland’s hottest-ever June to a record month
for tornadoes in the United States – and linked them to
The unprecedented warning takes its force and
significance from the fact that it is not coming from
Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, but from an
impeccably respected UN organisation that is not given
to hyperbole (though environmentalists will seize on it
to claim that the direst warnings of climate change are
being borne out).
The Geneva-based body, to which the weather services of
185 countries contribute, takes the view that events
this year in Europe, America and Asia are so remarkable
that the world needs to be made aware of it
The extreme weather it documents, such as record high
and low temperatures, record rainfall and record storms
in different parts of the world, is consistent with
predictions of global warming. Supercomputer models
show that, as the atmosphere warms, the climate not
only becomes hotter but much more unstable. “Recent
scientific assessments indicate that, as the global
temperatures continue to warm due to climate change,
the number and intensity of extreme events might
increase,” the WMO said, giving a striking series of
In southern France, record temperatures were recorded
in June, rising above 40C in places – temperatures of
5C to 7C above the average.
In Switzerland, it was the hottest June in at least 250
years, environmental historians said. In Geneva, since
29 May, daytime temperatures have not fallen below 25C,
making it the hottest June recorded.
In the United States, there were 562 May tornadoes,
which caused 41 deaths. This set a record for any
month. The previous record was 399 in June 1992.
In India, this year’s pre-monsoon heatwave brought peak
temperatures of 45C – 2C to 5C above the norm. At least
1,400 people died in India due to the hot weather. In
Sri Lanka, heavy rainfall from Tropical Cyclone 01B
exacerbated wet conditions, resulting in flooding and
landslides and killing at least 300 people. The
infrastructure and economy of south-west Sri Lanka was
heavily damaged. A reduction of 20-30 per cent is
expected in the output of low-grown tea in the next
Last month was also the hottest in England and Wales
since 1976, with average temperatures of 16C. The WMO
said: “These record extreme events (high temperatures,
low temperatures and high rainfall amounts and
droughts) all go into calculating the monthly and
annual averages, which, for temperatures, have been
gradually increasing over the past 100 years.
“New record extreme events occur every year somewhere
in the globe, but in recent years the number of such
extremes have been increasing.
“According to recent climate-change scientific
assessment reports of the joint WMO/United Nations
Environmental Programme Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change, the global average surface temperature
has increased since 1861. Over the 20th century the
increase has been around 0.6C.
“New analyses of proxy data for the northern hemisphere
indicate that the increase in temperature in the 20th
century is likely to have been the largest in any
century during the past 1,000 years.”
While the trend towards warmer temperatures has been
uneven over the past century, the trend since 1976 is
roughly three times that for the whole period.
Global average land and sea surface temperatures in May
2003 were the second highest since records began in
1880. Considering land temperatures only, last May was
the warmest on record.
It is possible that 2003 will be the hottest year ever
recorded. The 10 hottest years in the 143-year-old
global temperature record have now all been since 1990,
with the three hottest being 1998, 2002 and 2001.
The unstable world of climate change has long been a
prediction. Now, the WMO says, it is a reality.