2001-2010 has been the warmest 10-year period since the 1850s.

In fact, 2010 is "almost certain to rank in the top three warmest years" since 1850, when people began to use weather reporting instruments, Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said on Thursday at the sidelines of the climate talks. The other two warmest years were 1998 and 2005.

Data collected by the WMO, the specialized agency of the United Nations concludes that 2001-2010 has also been the warmest 10-year period since the 1850s.

The data indicates global warming is here to stay as a major trend in the complex global climate system, he said. The chills did not represent "the whole picture", Jarraud said. "Only limited land areas had below-normal temperatures in 2010."

Even when parts of Europe were in severe cold, most of Canada and Greenland were having one of the warmest winters, "with mean annual temperatures 3 C or more above normal".

Other parts of the world, such as Africa, parts of Asia, Arctic, the Sahara Desert and the Arabian Peninsula, continue to see rising temperatures as "surface air temperatures over land were above normal across most parts of the world", he said.

Large parts of northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Southwest Asia, have experienced their warmest year on record. At present, 2010’s average temperature is the highest on record, just ahead of 1998 and 2005.

"But we still have one month to go," Jarraud said, adding that La Nina, a pattern of mild cooling of the tropical Pacific Ocean has impacted weather patterns. "That’s why we are still not sure whether this year will be the warmest."

He said such warming trends are widespread, but have been especially strong in Africa, parts of Asia and parts of the Arctic. And the most extreme warm anomalies have occurred in two major regions – the first across most of Canada and Greenland, and the second covering most of the northern half of Africa and South Asia, extending as far east as western China.

Moreover, many countries and regions have suffered major climate disasters, including heat waves, floods and droughts.

The worst flooding in history submerged a part of Pakistan this year, which destroyed millions of homes and affected the lives of 22 million people.

Floods also hit parts of Africa, where "you would not expect floods", Jarraud said. Over summer, forest fires raged in parts of Russia as heat waves scorched the greater Moscow area. The city’s mean temperatures in July were 7.6 C above normal, with a record high temperature of 38.2 C on July 29, Jarraud said.

Other parts of the world, including Eurasia and northern Africa, also experienced "above normal" temperatures, with Japan and China seeing their hottest summers on record, he said.

"The heat waves in Russia could not have happened 100 years ago, and it is global warming that contributed to it," he said.

Jarraud also warned that the world will experience more severe weather. "In places like Asia, there would be a greater occurrence of droughts, which may be stronger and more intense. In other places, or sometimes in the same places, there may be a greater occurrence of floods," he told China Daily.

"In other words, the extremes are likely to become more frequent and more intense." Cold weather may become less frequent and intense on average for Asia, he added.

Barry Coates, Oxfam policy adviser, said these findings support what millions around the world on the frontline of climate change already know: that the climate is changing.

Coates highlighted the fact that the people in poor and vulnerable countries are mostly affected. In the first nine months of this year 21,000 people died due to weather-related disasters – more than twice the number for the whole of last year.

"This is making it harder for people to survive," Coates said. "Cancun must begin to resolve this by setting up a climate fund and identifying ways in which to raise the money desperately needed so that vulnerable people are closer to being able to protect themselves from the changing weather, which tragically is expected to get worse."

DARA, a leading humanitarian research organization, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a group of committed most vulnerable countries, Friday launched a major new global report on the state of the climate crisis.

The "Climate Vulnerability Monitor" reveals distinct vulnerabilities in 184 countries and all regions of the world to short-term impacts of climate change just as the slow search for an international deal to tackle longer-term global warming continues at the UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico (COP-16).

EU open to another period of Kyoto Protocol

Europe was willing to commit to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol but it had to be a balanced deal, European Union officials said in Cancun Friday.

Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions only accounted for 12 percent of the global total, so it was seeking a balanced deal in UN climate change negotiations, European Union officials Peter Wittock and Artur Runge-Metzger told a press conference.

Some nations were using a shrill tone in order to emphasize certain points as UN climate talks progressed, Runge-Metzger said.

With ministers from more than 190 signatories to the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its supplementary document, the Kyoto Protocol, due to meet here on Tuesday next week, there was still room for negotiations to turn in a positive direction, he said.

The 16th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC is taking place here to seek ways to tackle global climate changes. The second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in one of the key issues being discussed during the talks as the Protocol’s first commitment will expire in 2012.

Some countries, like Japan, Canada and Russia, have publicly said they will not sign any new agreements concerning the second commitment period.

Venezuela, representing the nations of the Boliviarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), said it would not sign any new agreements unless rich nations committed to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol.