USA — The nation set a record for wildfires this year andclimate experts say 2006 will probably end as the third warmest year on recordfor the contiguous United States.
Drought and hot conditions contributed to the record wildfire season, withmore than 9.5 million acres burned through early December, according to theNational Interagency Fire Center.
The annual climate report, released Thursday by the National Climatic DataCenter, says 2006 will most likely be the third warmest year on record, trailingonly 1998 and 1934.
For the world as a whole, 2006 is expect to end as the sixth warmest year onrecord, the agency said.
Meanwhile, in England, the weather service _ known as the Met Office _ andthe University of East Anglia also issued a joint statement proclaiming 2006 asthe sixth hottest year on record worldwide.
Notable weather in 2006, according to the U.S. climate center, included:
_ The nation’s residential energy demand was approximately 9 percent lessduring the relatively mild winter, and 13 percent higher during the hot summer.
_ Summer included a heat wave that peaked during the last half of July.All-time records were set in a number of locations across the central andwestern United States.
_ For the contiguous United States, five of the first seven months of theyear were drier than average. Combined with unusually warm temperatures, droughtconditions persisted in much of the country. By late July, half of thecontiguous United States was in moderate to exceptional drought.
_ Above average rainfall from August through November helped end drought inmany areas, although in places such as western Washington, record rainfall inNovember led to extensive flooding.
_ The 2006 hurricane season was near-normal. The nine named storms during the2006 season is the second lowest since 1995. Only the 1997 season had fewer.This is attributed largely to the rapid onset of El Nino in the equatorialPacific, which suppresses conditions conducive to hurricane formation in theAtlantic.
_ Also related to El Nino, the Eastern Pacific hurricane season showed asharp increase in activity compared to the below-normal levels seen since 1998.Through early December, 19 named storms had formed, with three making landfallalong the Pacific coast of Mexico, including major Hurricane Lane.
_ The extent of Arctic sea ice was second lowest on record in September,which is the time of year with sea ice coverage. This was only slightly higherthan the record low extent measured in 2005.