The warming trend continues. Average global surface temperatures last year were almost identical to those in 1999, which makes 2000 one of the six hottest years in the past 120. At press time, the year was also on target to be one of the 10 wettest on record, says Thomas R. Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.
Outside the tropics, temperatures last year were notably above average. At latitudes above 20 degrees N, the period from December 1999 to November 2000 was the second warmest on record, Karl notes. Widespread areas across Canada, Scandinavia, and much of Eastern Europe, for example, experienced annual average temperatures more than 2 degrees F above normal.
Although the United States went through the second coolest November on record, unprecedented winter warmth back when 2000 began enabled the entire year’s average temperature to still reach 54.1 degrees to 54.2 degrees F. That’s well above the 106-year average of 52.8 degrees F.
If winter temperatures returned to normal in late December, the year 2000 ended up as the seventh warmest ever in the lower 48 states, Karl says. Even if temperatures remained unseasonably low, last year will rank among the warmest dozen.
Last year, a strong La Nina–a periodic dip in sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific–spurred above-average precipitation across Indonesia, northeast South America, and the southern portions of Africa and Asia.
Other weather news of note for the year 2000: Barrow, Alaska, recorded its first thunderstorm. Many scientists predict global warming will cause such atmospheric unrest to spread to higher latitudes, but Karl cautions that it’s tough to link global warming trends with isolated weather events.