This year is set to be the sixth warmest worldwide since records began, stoked by global warming linked to human activities, the British Meteorological Office and the University of East Anglia said on Thursday.
As England basks in unseasonably warm December weather two weeks before the end of the year, the Met Office said data from January to November made 2006 the warmest on record for central England.
“Worldwide, the provisional figures for 2006 using data from January to November, place the year as the sixth warmest year” since records began in the 1850s, the report said.
The previous warmest years were 1998 and 2005, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO was due to release its own 2006 figures later on Thursday.
“The top 10 warmest years have all occurred in the last 12 years,” it said, adding that 2006 could have been warmer but for La Nina, a cooling of parts of the Pacific Ocean.
“The figures support recent research from David Karoly of the University of Oklahoma and Peter Stott at the Met Office which showed links between human behavior and the warming trend,” said Met Office scientist David Parker.
Most scientists now agree that world average temperatures may rise by between two and six degrees Celsius this century due to emissions of so-called greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels for power and transport.
They say this would cause polar ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise, causing floods, famines and violent storms and putting millions of lives at risk.
Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said in October that urgent action on global warming was vital.
He said the cost of curbing greenhouse gas emissions now would be about one percent of global economic output -- a figure that rises 20-fold if action is delayed.
In Britain, temperature records have tumbled month by month, it said.
“2006 has been quite extraordinary in terms of the UK temperature, with several records broken,” Parker said.
This year saw the highest average temperature recorded since the Central England Temperature (CET) series began in 1659.
“The rise above the average is significantly higher than that for the two hottest years we have experienced,” Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, said.
The report said last July had been the warmest on record in Britain with an average temperature of 19.7 degrees Celsius (67 degrees Farenheit), and it had been the warmest April to October period with a mean temperature of 14.6 degrees Celsius (58 Farenheit).
The autumn has already been declared the warmest on record with an average temperature of 12.6 degrees Celsius.
At that rate, 2006 “is very likely to be the warmest year in terms of CET” the Met Office said.
The joint warmest years currently are 1990 and 1999, which recorded a mean temperature of 10.63 degrees Celsius.