If these feel like hot times, that's because they are, at least according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which Friday said "2010 is almost certain to rank in the top three warmest years since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850."

The global combined sea and land surface air temperature for 2010 (January-October) is estimated to be about 0.55 degrees Celsius higher than the 1961-1990 annual average, which was 14 degrees Celsius. This year's nominal value is the highest on record, just ahead of 1998 and 2005, WMO said.

The final ranking of 2010 will not become clear until November and December data are analyzed in early 2011. Preliminary data indicate that global temperatures from November are similar to those observed in November 2005, indicating that global temperatures for 2010 are continuing to track near-record levels, said WMO, which is a unit of the United Nations (UN).

Over the 10 years from 2001 to 2010, global temperatures have averaged 0.46 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, 0.03 degrees above the 2000-2009 average and the highest value ever recorded for a 10-year period. Recent warming has been especially strong in Africa, parts of Asia and parts of the Arctic; the Saharan/Arabian, East African, Central Asian and Greenland/Arctic Canada sub-regions have all had 2001-2010 temperatures 1.2 to 1.4 degrees Celsius above the long-term average, and 0.7-0.9 degrees warmer than any previous decade.

Surface air temperatures over land were above normal across most parts of the world. The most extreme warm anomalies occurred in two major regions. The first extended across most of Canada and Greenland, with mean annual temperatures 3 degrees Celsius or more above normal in parts of west Greenland and the eastern Canadian Arctic and sub-Arctic.

The second covered most of the northern half of Africa and south Asia, extending as far east as the western half of China, with annual temperatures 1-3 degrees Celsius above normal over most of the region. Many parts of both regions had their warmest year on record, including large parts of northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwest Asia (with Turkey and Tunisia having their warmest year on record), as well as much of the Canadian Arctic and coastal Greenland. Four of the five sub-regions, which are wholly or partly in Africa (West and Southern Africa, the Saharan/Arabian region and the Mediterranean), are on course for their warmest year on record, along with South and Central Asia, and Greenland/Arctic Canada. Average temperatures over Canada have also been the highest on record.

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