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This has been the wildest decade of weather ever recorded on Earth
A U.N. report says the world just experienced an unprecedented run of extreme storms and heatwaves
 
Easton Martin cools off in a misting fan on June 28 while on a family vacation in Las Vegas, where temperatures hit 120 degrees.
Easton Martin cools off in a misting fan on June 28 while on a family vacation in Las Vegas, where temperatures hit 120 degrees. AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

If you think the weather here on Earth is "getting nastier, you're right," says Alex Kirby at Britain's Guardian. A new report by the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization — The Global Climate 2001-2010, A Decade of Extremes — concludes that the world experienced "unprecedented high-impact climate extremes" over the first decade of the 21st century, with more national temperature records being shattered than in any other decade on record.

WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud warned that "rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat." How bad were the effects over the last decade? Here is a look at the wildest 10 years of weather the planet has ever seen, by the numbers:

370,000
Deaths blamed on extreme weather from 2001 to 2010, according to the WMO report. Deaths from storms and draught actually fell, due mainly to improved disaster preparedness, but heatwaves more than made up for the difference.

66,000
People who died in a heatwave that hit Europe in 2003, the biggest contributor to the increase

55,000
People killed by a heatwave that struck Russia in 2010

20
Percentage increase over the number of deaths reported in the 1990s. Much of that change could be chalked up to the planet's ballooning population, which grew from 5.3 billion in 1990 to 6.9 billion in 2010.

9
Years out of the decade's 10 that were the warmest since record-keeping began in the 1850s. The exception was 2008. 2010 was the hottest.

0.4
Degrees Fahrenheit (0.21 degree Celsius) that average temperatures rose over the first decade of the 21st century, compared to the previous decade

0.3
Degrees Fahrenheit (0.14 C) that temperatures rose in the 1990s

44
Percentage of nations that recorded the highest temperatures of the last half-century between 2001 and 2010

11
Percentage of nations that recorded the lowest temperatures of the last half-century between 2001 and 2010

3
Millimeters sea levels rose annually, about double the 20th century average of 1.6 millimeters per year

20 million
People affected in floods that devastated Pakistan in 2010. Two thousand people were killed. Floods were the most common extreme weather events over the decade.

500
Tropical cyclone-related disasters over the decade

170,000
People killed in tropical-storm-related disasters from 2001 to 2010

$380 billion
Estimated damages cause by these storms

39
Percent increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial era in 1750

1
Decades since 1901 that have been wetter than the last one

Sources: Reuters, United Nations, World Meteorological Organization, Xinhua

 
Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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