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. World to cool slightly in 2008: British experts

by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jan 3, 2008
World temperatures will cool slightly in 2008, but it will remain among the top 10 hottest years on record, British weather experts predicted Thursday.

The impact of a strong La Nina climate pattern over the Pacific will help keep temperatures down, according to the annual forecast by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia.

Overall the global temperature is expected to be 0.37 degree Celsius above the long-term average of 14.0 degree, making it the coolest year since 2000 when the value was 0.24 degree C above the average.

"Phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina have a significant influence on global surface temperature and the current strong La Nina will act to limit temperatures in 2008," said Professor Chris Folland of the Met Office.

"However mean temperature is still expected to be significantly warmer than in 2000 ... Sharply renewed warming is likely once La Nina declines," he added.

The forecasts take into account El Nino and La Nina, ballooning greenhouse gas levels as well as solar effecta and natural variations in the world's oceans.

The cooling comes against the background of an underlying warming trend, said Professor Phil Jones, Director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.

"The fact that 2008 is forecast to be cooler than any of the last seven years -- and that 2007 did not break the record warmth set on 1998 -- does not mean that global warming has gone away," he said.

"What matters is the underlying rate of warming -- the period 2001-2007 with an average of 0.44 degree Celsius above the 1961-90 average was 0.21 degree Celsius warmer than corresponding values for the period 1991-2000."

La Nina, effectively a drop in sea surface temperatures off the western coast of South America, can cause havoc with weather patterns in many parts of the globe.

El Nino, a warming of Pacific sea surface temperatures, was blamed for a lengthy drought in Australia, flooding in the Horn of Africa and Bolivia, and more severe winter monsoons in South Asia in 2006-2007.

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Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is emitted in great quantities as bubbles from seeps on the ocean floor near Santa Barbara. About half of these bubbles dissolve into the ocean, but the fate of this dissolved methane remains uncertain. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have discovered that only one percent of this dissolved methane escapes into the air -- good news for the Earth's atmosphere.

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