LONDON (Reuters) - This year is set to be the hottest on record worldwide due to global warming and the El Nino weather phenomenon, Britain's Meteorological Office said on Thursday.
The Met Office said the combination of factors would likely push average temperatures this year above the record set in 1998. 2006 is set to be the sixth warmest on record globally.
"This new information represents another warning that climate change is happening around the world," said Met Office scientist Katie Hopkins.
The world's 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1994 in a temperature record dating back a century and a half, according to the United Nations' weather agency.
Britain's Met Office makes a global forecast every January with the University of East Anglia, and said it expected the world's average temperature to be 0.54 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 long-term average of 14.0 degrees.
There is a 60 percent probability that 2007 will be as warm or warmer than the current warmest year, 1998, which itself was 0.52 degrees above the long-term average it said in a statement.
Most scientists agree that temperatures will rise by between two and six degrees Celsius this century due mainly to carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport.
They say this will cause melting at the polar ice caps, sea levels to rise and weather patterns to change bringing floods, famines and violent storms, putting millions of lives at risk.
Former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern said in October that urgent action on global warming was vital and that delay would multiply the cost by up to 20 times.
The Kyoto Protocol is the only global action plan to curb carbon emissions, but it expires in 2012, is rejected by the world's biggest polluter -- the United States -- and does not bind booming economies like China and India.
The Met Office said the established moderate El Nino, a phenomenon in the tropical Pacific blamed for disrupting weather patterns, would continue for the first few months of 2007.
It noted that as there was a time lag between El Nino and its full effect on surface temperatures, its influence would therefore be felt well into the year.
It will coincide with what environmentalists say will be a very busy year for climate diplomacy.
Germany, which has an active climate change agenda, has taken over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union and the year-long presidency of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.
Backed by Britain, which has pushed climate change high up the world agenda, pressure is building for the G8 summit in Germany in early June to set out a framework for discussions to take global action beyond Kyoto.