2007 set to be 6th warmest year on record
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
OSLO (Reuters) - This year is set to be the sixth warmest since records began 150 years ago, cooler than earlier predicted which means a slight respite for European ski resorts or bears trying to hibernate.
"2007 will likely be near equal with 2006, so joint sixth warmest year," Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia, told Reuters.
The unit, which provides global data for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), had predicted a year ago that 2007 could be the warmest worldwide since reliable records began in the 1860s. It cut the prediction to number 2 in mid-year.
A sizzling start to 2007, blamed on a combination of global warming and an El Nino warming of the Pacific Ocean that meant an abnormally warm winter in the northern Hemisphere, tailed off as the El Nino ended early.
Jones predicted that 2007 would be beaten by 1998, warmest ahead of 2005, 2003, 2002 and 2004. The U.S. space agency NASA says that 2005 was fractionally warmer than 1998.
The unusually warm start to the year was partly blamed for heating the Atlantic and cutting the extent of Arctic sea ice to a record low in summer. It also disrupted crop growth.
Many of Europe's Alpine ski resorts -- starved of snow a year ago -- have opened. In Switzerland 48 resorts, or more than half the total, opened about 10 days ago after good early snows and freezing temperatures.
In northern Europe, resorts such as Hafjell have opened weeks before last year, when temperatures were too high even for snow-making machines.
And bears in a Bulgarian conservation park are starting to doze off for winter hibernations, around the normal time, after last year's mild winter badly disrupted their sleep.
"Four of the bears are sleeping already. The weather was a bit warm but last week it became colder and it snowed so they have fallen asleep," said Raya Stoilova of the "Four Paws" foundation of 24 bears in a conservation park.
The U.N. climate panel has blamed human activities, led by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars for stoking global warming. Eleven of the 12 years from 1995 to 2006 were among the 12 warmest years on record, it says.
The world's environment ministers will meet in Bali, Indonesia, from December 3-14 to seek ways to widen the fight against climate change.
They will aim to launch two years of talks on a new climate deal to succeed the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol and seek more involvement by Kyoto outsiders such as the United States and big developing nations led by China and India.
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(Writing by Alister Doyle)