Unless there is a drastic turn in the weather in the closing days of the year, 2007 will be one of the 10 warmest years the contiguous United States has experienced since national records began in 1895, according to preliminary data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center. The global surface temperature for 2007 is expected to be the fifth warmest since worldwide records began in 1880, NOAA said.

The average temperature for 2007 across the United States is expected to be near 54.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.5 degrees above the 20th century mean of 52.8 degrees and the eighth warmest year on record, NOAA said. Only one March and one August in the last 113 years were warmer than those months were in 2007, and only two months this year -- February and April -- were cooler-than-average. During a severe heat wave across much of the central and southeastern U.S. more than 2,500 new daily record high temperatures were recorded.

NOAA scientists determined that residential energy demand was approximately 3% less during 2007's winter months and 8% higher during the year's summer months that would be expected under average climate conditions.

The global annual temperature for combined land and ocean surfaces for 2007 is expected to be near 58 degrees, the fifth warmest on record, NOAA said. Including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997. The greatest warming has taken place in high latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Anomalous warmth in 2007 contributed to the lowest Arctic sea ice extent since satellite records began in 1979, surpassing by 23% the previous record low, set in 2005. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this is part of a continuing trend in end-of-summer Arctic sea ice extent reductions of approximately 10% per decade since 1979.

An end to the warmer-than-usual weather may not yet be in sight: several weather forecasters have predicted a mild winter this year (see NGI, Nov. 26).

NOAA's preliminary temperature data will be updated in early January to reflect the final three weeks of December and is not considered final until a full analysis is complete next spring.

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