(CORDIS) — A major new international study has shown that 2011 was the coolest year on record since 2008, despite the fact that the year was among the 15 warmest since records began in the late 19th century.
Three-hundred and seventy-eight scientists from 48 countries around the world participated in the ‘2011 State of the Climate’ report, which is published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States in cooperation with the American Meteorological Society (AMS).
The report updates presents data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments situated on land, sea and ice as well as several in the sky too.
‘Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment,’ comments Deputy NOAA Administrator Kathryn D. Sullivan. ‘This annual report provides scientists and citizens alike with an analysis of what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come.’
The report includes research carried out into changes in the ozone layer. This work was supported by the RECONCILE (‘Reconciliation of essential process parameters for an enhanced predictability of arctic stratospheric ozone loss and its climate interactions’) project, which was funded to the tune of EUR 3,499,913 under the Environment Theme of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). RECONCILE brought together 18 partner institutions from across France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In the upper atmosphere, temperatures in the tropical stratosphere were higher than average while temperatures in the polar stratosphere were lower than average during the early 2011 winter months. This resulted in the lowest ozone concentrations in the lower Arctic stratosphere since records began in 1979, with more than 80% of the ozone between 11 and 12 miles altitude destroyed by late March, increasing ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels at the surface.
The study also reports that two back-to-back ‘La Niñas’, an ocean-atmosphere phenomenon that sees cooler than usual sea surface temperature across the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, affected regional climates and influenced many of the world’s significant weather events throughout the year, such as droughts in east Africa, northern Mexico and the southern United States.
La Niña conditions contributed to an above-average tropical cyclone season in the North Atlantic hurricane basin and a below-average season in the eastern North Pacific. It was also associated with the wettest two-year period (2010-2011) on record in Australia, following a decade-long dry spell.
Glaciers around the world continued to lose mass with losses from Canadian Arctic glaciers and ice caps being the greatest since measurements began in 2002.
Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise. Carbon dioxide steadily increased in 2011 and the yearly global average exceeded 390 parts per million (ppm) for the first time since instrumental records began. This represents an increase of 2.10 ppm compared with the previous year. The report also shows that there is no evidence that natural emissions of methane in the Arctic have increased significantly during the last decade.
In addition the report provides details on extreme events experienced all over the globe in 2011, including the worst flooding in Thailand in almost 70 years, droughts and deadly tornados in the United States, flooding in Brazil and the worst summer heat wave in central and southern Europe since 2003.