MIAMI (AFP/REUTERS) - Record-breaking temperatures scorched the planet last year, making 2014 the hottest in more than a century and raising new concerns about global warming, US government scientists said Friday.
The much-anticipated report by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was confirmed by an independent analysis from the US space agency Nasa that reached the same conclusion.
"Record warmth was spread around the world," said the NOAA report.
"The globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces for 2014 was the highest among all years since record keeping began in 1880."
For the year, the average temperature was 0.69 deg C above the 20th century average, beating the previous record-holding years of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04 deg C.
Parts of the world that saw record heat included Russia, western Alaska, the western United States, parts of interior South America, parts of eastern and western coastal Australia, north Africa and most of Europe.
Record cold for the year was apparent only in some parts of the eastern and central United States.
LAND AND SEA
When land and sea surfaces were analysed separately, they each broke records.
Globally averaged sea surface temperature was the highest ever, at 0.57 deg C above the 20th century average.
Land surface temperature was 1 deg C above the 20th century average, marking the fourth highest in history.
When it came to snowfall, NOAA found that average annual snow in the northern hemisphere was 24.95 million square miles, "near the middle of the historical record." That equates to 64.62 million sq km.
The first half of 2014 saw less snow than normal, but the second half saw more than average.
Polar sea ice continued to decline in the Arctic, depriving polar bears of habitat and driving global warming changes that are felt in distant corners of the world.
The average annual sea ice extent in the Arctic was 10.99 million square miles, or 28.46 million sq km - the sixth smallest in the 36 years that experts have on record.
Meanwhile, sea ice in the Antarctic reached record highs for the second year in a row, at 13.08 million square miles (33.87 million sq km), NOAA said.
MONTH BY MONTH
December also broke records, with the highest combined land and ocean average surface temperature for any December in modern history.
The month's average temperature was 0.77 deg C above the 20th century average.
"This was the highest for December in the 1880-2014 record, surpassing the previous record of 2006 by 0.04 deg F (0.02 deg C)," NOAA said.
Scientists have warned of grave consequences this century if global temperatures keep rising as anticipated, including heavily populated coastal regions being swamped by rising ocean levels, more deadly extreme weather events, droughts that may harm food production and others.
This year representatives of about 200 governments will meet in Paris to try to forge a deal to limit global warming to avoid floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels blamed on increasing emissions of greenhouse gases, which result from burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.