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Warmest winter on record: US agency

Washington, March 16 (Reuters): This has been the world’s warmest winter since record-keeping began more than a century ago, the US government agency that tracks weather reported yesterday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the combined global land and ocean surface temperature from December to February was at its highest since records began in 1880.

A record-warm January was responsible for pushing up the combined winter temperature, according to the agency’s website, http://www.noaa.gov.

“Contributing factors were the long-term trend toward warmer temperatures as well as a moderate El Nino in the Pacific,” Jay Lawrimore of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center said in a telephone interview from Asheville, North Carolina.

The next-warmest winter on record was in 2004, and the third warmest winter was in 1998, Lawrimore said.

The ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1995. “We don’t say this winter is evidence of the influence of greenhouse gases,” Lawrimore said.

However, he noted that his centre’s work is part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change process, which released a report on global warming last month that found climate change is occurring and that human activities quite likely play a role in the change.

“So we know as a part of that, the conclusions have been reached and the warming trend is due in part to rises in greenhouse gas emissions,” Lawrimore said.

“By looking at long-term trends and long-term changes, we are able to better understand natural and anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.”

The combined temperature for the December-February period was 0.72 degree Celsius above the 20th century mean, the agency said. Lawrimore did not give an absolute temperature for the three-month period, and said the deviation from the mean was what was important.

He did not provide the 20th century mean temperature.

Temperatures were above average for these months in Europe, Asia, western Africa, southeastern Brazil and the northeast half of the US.

Global temperature on land surface during the northern hemisphere winter was also the warmest on record.

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