2010 on track to be hottest year
The world is experiencing the hottest year on record, the US based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported, with large parts of Canada, Africa, Europe and the Middle East facing abnormally warm temperatures.
The figures released by the NOAA suggest that 2010 is on course to be the warmest year since records began in 1880.
The first six months of 2010 have been hotter than the first half of 1998, the previous record holder.
June 2010 was the 304th consecutive month with a combined land and surface temperature above the 20th century average, the NOAA reported.
"We had an El Nino episode in the early part of the year that's now faded, but that has contributed to the warmth not only in equatorial Pacific but also contributed to anomalously warm global temperatures as well," Jay Lawrimore, the chief of climate analysis at the NOAA, said.
There are fears that a prolonged global heat wave will cause severe droughts and harm crop yields.
In Russia, a state of emergency has been declared in 19 regions as temperatures in the capital, Moscow reached a record 37 degrees.
Russia's grain lobby said the country is facing the worst drought in 130 years. Almost 25 million acres of crops in central and European areas of Russia have already been destroyed by drought, according to authorities.
The heat wave in Russia is part of a larger system across much of Europe that is causing crops to wither, forest fires to ignite and road surfaces to melt.
From Russia's Urals mountains to western Germany, a week of temperatures in the mid-30s has baked northern parts of Europe, which are usually spared the heat of warmer Mediterranean regions - and forecasters are warning of more to come over the next week.
This year has been the driest in Britain since 1929 and the use of hosepipes has been banned in the northwest of England.
Authorities in Berlin have reportedly issued a ban on long swimming trunks, claiming they soak up too much water, as throngs of Germans headed to outdoor swimming pools to escape 38 degree temperatures.
Elsewhere, northern Thailand is struggling with the worst drought in 20 years, while Israel is in the midst of its longest and most severe drought since the 1920s.
In the US, farmers in the Midwest agricultural belt worry that hot temperatures and dry weather could hurt corn and soybean crops.
"It's going to be pretty warm across eastern Nebraska, Iowa, western portions of Missouri, mid to upper 90s [Fahrenheit]," Donald Keeney, the senior agriculture meteorologist with Cropcast Ag Services, said.
But Lawrimore said that it remained to be seen if 2010 would overtake 2005 as the warmest complete year on record.
"This year the fact that the El Nino episode has ended and is likely to transition into La Nina, which has a cooling influence on the global average temperature, it's possible that we will not end up with the warmest year as a whole," he said.