As you reach for the gloves and ice scraper today, consider this: 2011 is tied for the 10th hottest year since records began in 1850, according to a new annual assessment of average global temperatures. In fact, the United Nations weather office said today that world temperatures are heading for a threshold that could lead to irreversible changes.
"Climate change is real, and we are already observing its manifestation in weather and climate patterns around the world," said R.D.J. Legoasa, deputy director of the World Meteorological Organization, today at the U.N. climate conference in South Africa.
According to the new research, the Arctic sea ice has shrunk to record-low volumes this year. Parching drought in East Africa has left tens of thousands dead, and there have been deadly floods in Asia, and 14 separate weather catastrophes in the United States with damage topping $1 billion each.
Climate negotiators have set a goal of keeping the temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Farehnheit above preindustrial levels. They are already 1.4 degrees above the 1750 average.