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Heat is on Canadian Arctic as temperature rises, sea ice melts

A woman looks at a model of the Earth during United Nations climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, on Nov. 30, 2010.

RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Canada experienced record high average temperatures this year, with the Arctic being particularly hard hit by abnormal heat and declining sea ice, the World Meteorological Organization says.

In a report released Thursday at the climate summit in Cancun, the United Nations agency said the global average temperature in 2010 was tracking to be one of the three warmest since readings began to be taken in 1850, just behind 1998 and 2005.

Climate change skeptics have argued the Earth is actually cooling because 1998 was the warmest year on record. But the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that, over the past decade, global temperatures were the highest ever for a 10-year period at 0.46°C above the 1961-1990 average.

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Countries have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to keep the predicted increase in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, the level at which many climate scientists predict catastrophic impacts from droughts, abnormally high rainfall and rising sea levels.

But as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, scientists with the United National Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change forecast that the polar regions will experience the most extreme changes in weather patterns.

Canada's Arctic has been experiencing a warming trend for years with the resulting disappearance of sea ice and threats to marine life that depend on it. The meteorological organization said temperatures in Canada's eastern Arctic and sub-Arctic regions have averaged 3 degrees above normal this year.

"The Canadian sector had its lowest summer ice extent on record," the WMO reported, while across the Arctic, the sea ice extended was the third lowest on record, after 2007 and 2008.

It noted that the many regions experienced extreme weather in 2010, with torrential, flood-causing rain in Pakistan and parts of China, severe drought in Russia and the Amazon.

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Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More

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