Fourth hottest year ever

THE WORLD Meteorological Association (WMO) predicts 2005 will be the fourth hottest year in 150 years. Experts view these hot summers as just natural deviations, but others see them as distinct manifestations of global warming.

“I believe it is unquestionable that climactic alterations are taking place at a faster speed than we had appreciated,” said Klaus Toepfer, director of the United Nations Programme for the Environment.

Since 1861, when credible measurements began, the hottest year recorded was 1998, reaching 0.55 celsius above the average temperature. This follows 2002 (0.48 celsius higher) and 2003 (0.45 celsius higher). The WMO predicted that the average global temperature this year would be 0.4 celsius above the norm for the period 1964-1990.

Europeans, in particular, will have cause to remember the scorching summer of 2003 that led to many deaths and fires. 2004 has been marked by a succession of extreme and sometimes lethal climactic events. Four violent hurricanes swept through the Caribbean in September, Japan registered a record number of typhoons (10 so far this year), while, in Haiti, a typhoon killed 1,900 people. In the Philippines, 740 people died in storms and floods. Here in Portugal, the summer saw record temperatures of 43 celsius in Beja and the Algarve, accompanied by unusually wet spells in other parts of the country.

This year proved a costly one for insurance companies worldwide. Compensation claims topped 35,000 million euros in the period between January and October, as opposed to 16,000 million euros in 2003. Experts predict more hot summers in the future.