There is a good chance that next year will be the hottest year recorded for the world, according to new forecasts from the Met Office's climate prediction and research branch, the Hadley Centre.
A new forecast for the decade from 2009 onwards suggests that "at least half" of the years up to 2019 will be hotter than the hottest year so far, which was 1998. And it indicates that the first of the years to break the current record will actually be 2010.
The year 1998 broke all previous records for the globe, largely because of a very strong El Niño, the cyclical meteorological phenomenon involving a substantial warming of the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean, which goes on to affect the rest of the world. The 1998 average temperature was 0.5 degrees celsius above the long-term average of the years 1961-1990 – an enormous leap.
Since then, temperatures have generally remained high, with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th record hottest years being 2005, 2003 and 2002 respectively, although there was a noticeable cooling in 2008, thought to have been influenced by the La Niña phenomenon, the opposite of El Niño, when Pacific temperatures fall.
However, the upward movement of temperatures is returning and 2009 is currently on track to be the fifth warmest year on record, helped by a new El Niño which is now under way (but not expected to be as strong as that of 1998).
The new forecast for 2009-2019 shows a range of possible outcomes for each year but the "central estimate" for 2010 shows a figure of about 0.55C above the average – clearly in excess of 1998. The temperatures then steadily climb to a high of about 0.7C above the average by 2015.
A Met Office spokesman said: "The new decadal forecast indicates that there is a good chance that 2010 will be warmer than the current warmest year on record."