Environment & Science

UN: 2013 extreme events due to warming Earth

In this file photo, survivors pass by two large boats after they were washed ashore by strong waves caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, Leyte province central Philippines on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday leaving a wide swath of destruction and hundreds of people dead. A rise in sea levels is leading to increasing damage from storm surges and coastal flooding, as demonstrated by Typhoon Haiyan, the head of the U.N. weather service said Monday.
In this file photo, survivors pass by two large boats after they were washed ashore by strong waves caused by Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban city, Leyte province central Philippines on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms on record, slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday leaving a wide swath of destruction and hundreds of people dead. A rise in sea levels is leading to increasing damage from storm surges and coastal flooding, as demonstrated by Typhoon Haiyan, the head of the U.N. weather service said Monday.
Aaron Favila/AP

The head of the U.N. weather agency said Monday that recent extreme weather patterns are "consistent" with human-induced climate change, citing key events that wreaked havoc in Asia, Europe, the U.S. and Pacific region last year.

Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said his agency's annual assessment of the global climate shows how dramatically people and lands everywhere felt the impacts of extreme weather such as droughts, heat waves, floods and tropical cyclones.

"Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change," he said.

The U.N. agency called 2013 the sixth-warmest year on record. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years have occurred in the 21st century.

A rise in sea levels is leading to increasing damage from storm surges and coastal flooding, as demonstrated by Typhoon Haiyan, Jarraud said. The typhoon in November killed at least 6,100 people and caused $13 billion in damage to the Philippines and Vietnam.

Australia, meanwhile, had its hottest year on record and parts of central Asia and central Africa also notched record highs.

Jarraud drew special attention to studies and climate modeling examining Australia's recent heat waves, saying the high temperatures there would have been virtually impossible without the emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

He cited other costly weather disasters such as $22 billion damage from central European flooding in June, $10 billion in damage from Typhoon Fitow in China and Japan, and a $10 billion drought in much of China.

Only a few places were cooler than normal. Among them was the central U.S.

Jarraud also cited frigid polar air in parts of Europe and the southeast U.S., and the widest tornado ever observed over rural areas of central Oklahoma, as being among extreme weather events.

There were 41 billion-dollar weather disasters in the world last year, the second highest number behind only 2010, according to insurance firm Aon Benfield, which tracks global disasters.

Jarraud spoke as top climate scientists and representatives from about 100 governments with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change met in Japan to complete their latest report on global warming's impact.