Fiona Harvey Is it getting hot in here?

It soon will be. The UK’s Met Office forecast on Thursday that next year would be the warmest on record.

Or, rather, not quite. In a great example of hedging, the Met Office actually said it was “more likely than not” to be the warmest since records began in the 1850s, surpassing the previous warmest year, 1998.

The reason the meteorologists think next year is going to be warmer is similar to what made 1998 so hot around the world – an El Nino event. This is a moderate warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, which has repercussions around the world.

“A combination of man-made global warming and a moderate warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon known as El Nino, means it is very likely that 2010 will be a warmer year globally than 2009,” the Met Office said.

And the Met Office did very well on its last prediction of the next year’s global average temperature. Last year’s prediction for 2009 was exactly right, at 0.44 degrees Celsius above the long-term norm. (So far, at least. There could be freak weather in the next two weeks that could put this out.)

This is the same Met Office that was ridiculed earlier this year when it forecast a “barbecue summer” for the UK only to be proved a long way wide of the mark, as the summer was another washout.

As Vicky Pope of the Met Office explained to journalists here in Copenhagen,  that forecast had been taken in slightly the wrong way. Temperatures were forecast to be warmer, but because hot air can hold more moisture, this can mean more rain rather than a sunny heatwave.

So much for those who hope that global warming will mean life’s a beach.