2010 on track to become record hot year

Posted September 15, 2010 7:08 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2010 7:16 p.m. EDT

— This year is on track to be the warmest on record.

The government's latest statistics, covering January through August, show 2010 is tied with 1998 as the hottest year.

El Nino, the tropical weather pattern of unusually warm surface waters from the Pacific Ocean, has also been strong this year.

"Both 1998 and the beginning of this year had strong El Nino patterns," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

The world's average temperature for the first eight months of this year was 58.5 degrees Fahrenheit. That's 1.2 degrees above average for the period.

The warm weather is being felt in North Carolina as well.

"Prior to 2007, the highest number of days in a year that temperatures rose 90 degrees or higher was 72," Fishel said.

However, two of the last four years, temperatures have risen past the 90-degree mark more than 80 days in the Triangle, Fishel added.

Meanwhile, a separate report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center said Arctic sea ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year and is the third-lowest extent recorded since satellites began measuring minimum sea ice extent in 1979.

Arctic sea ice covered an average of 2.3 million square miles during August. This is 22 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent and the 14th consecutive August with below-average Arctic sea ice extent, NOAA reported.

Melting sea ice is part of a pattern of changes atmospheric scientists attribute to global warming, which has been documented in rising temperatures over the last several decades.

Other changes include melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica, which can lead to rising sea levels, a decline in glaciers and changes in weather patterns around the world.

The new climate report noted that August was hotter than normal in eastern Europe, eastern Canada and parts of eastern Asia but cooler than average in Australia, central Russia and southern South America.

It was the hottest August since 1961 in China, but the coolest August since 1993 in the United Kingdom.