BUENOS AIRES — The year 2004, punctuated by four powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and deadly typhoons lashing Asia, was the fourth-hottest on record, extending a trend since 1990 that has registered the 10 warmest years, a U.N. weather agency said Wednesday.
The year also has been the most expensive for the insurance industry in coping worldwide with hurricanes, typhoons and other weather-related disasters, according to new figures released by United Nations environmental officials.
The release of the report by the World Meteorological Organization came as environmental ministers from 80 countries gathered in Buenos Aires for a United Nations conference on climate change, looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gases that some say contribute heavily to Earth's warming.
Scientists say a sustained increase in temperature is likely to continue disrupting the global climate, increasing the intensity of storms, potentially drying up farmlands and raising ocean levels.
Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said the warming and increased storm activity could not be attributed to any particular cause but was part of a global trend that was likely to continue.
Scientists have reported that temperatures rose an average of 1 degree over the past century, with the rate of change since 1976 roughly three times that of the last 100 years.
The organization said it expected Earth's average surface temperature to rise 0.8 of a degree above the normal 57 degrees Fahrenheit in 2004. The warmest year on record since accurate readings began to be taken in 1861 was 1998.