This has been the warmest decade since 1880. In 2010, global surface temperatures tied 2005 as the warmest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists say that the earth could warm by an additional 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit during the 21st century if we fail to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. This rise in average temperature will have far-reaching effects on the earth's climate patterns and on all living things. Many of these changes have already begun.
Hot, dry weather led to a record-setting 2006 wildland fire season with close to 100,000 fires reported and nearly 10 million acres burned, 125 percent above the decade's average.
In July 2006, severe heat waves in North America contributed to the deaths of at least 225 people.
Scientists report that some polar bears are drowning because they have to swim longer distances to reach ice floes. Unless we take effective action now, the polar bear will likely become extinct in Alaska by 2050.
Glaciers & sea levels
At the current rate of retreat, all of the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be gone by 2070.
Photo credits: storm: iStock; inhaler: iStock; polar bear: Corbis; flood: iStock.
last revised 12/10/2008
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