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Even though this year isn't yet in the books, 2013 is on track to be the seventh-warmest year since modern temperature records began in 1850, the World Meteorological Organization reported today in conjunction with the United Nations-led global climate talks underway this week in Poland.
Global land and sea surface temperatures were about 0.86 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1961-1990 average for the period between January and September of this year, tying them with the same time frame from 2003 as the seventh-warmest such period on record.
Warmer temperatures were most extreme in Australia in 2013, the report notes, in contrast with 2012 when the United States experienced much of the world's record high annual temperatures.
Temperatures this year are in line with the trend since 2000, said WMO Secretary-General Michael Jarraud, adding that the 2000 to 2010 period was the warmest decade on record so far.
"All of the warmest years have been since 1998 and this year once again continues the underlying, long-term trend," he added. "The coldest years now are warmer than the hottest years before 1998."
Surface temperatures, Jarraud explained, are only part of the story of Earth's changing climate. "The impact on our water cycle is already becoming apparent, as manifested by droughts, floods, and extreme participation," he added.
Driving the world's rising global temperatures are the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which the WMO said reached new highs in 2012 and are expected to climb to "unprecedented levels" again in 2013 once this year is complete.
"This means that we are committed to a warmer future," he said.Follow @terrellwrites
Global Average Temperatures
Temperature Anomaly from January-December
Temperature anomaly data by year in Celsius degrees, with El Nino years shown in red, La Nina years shown in blue, and neutral years shown in gray.
Average Monthly Arctic Sea Ice Extent
Year by year, the amount of Arctic sea ice expands and contracts in the summer and winter months. The low points on the graph show the summer low extents.
MORE: Warming Also Made 2012 A Record-Breaking Year
Warmest Year on Record - New Hampshire
Like much of New England, 2012's most unusual heat occurred in the spring, including a 90-degree reading in Concord on April 16 that came earlier on the calendar than any other 90-degree reading in the city's history. (Photo: Tom Brakefield/Thinkstock)