Number-crunchers say 2006 on track to be the sixth-hottest on record

As 2006 limps to a close, it’s measuring in as the world’s sixth-hottest year on record. It’s the warmest Britain has seen since wenches were hoisting tankards of grog (er, since records began in 1659), and the third-warmest in the U.S.’s Lower 48 since 1880. Weird weather has gripped the globe this year, from rainy Africa to droughty Australia and China. According to the U.K. Meteorological Office, the 10 hottest years on record have been in the last 12 years, and scientists say it ain’t no coincidence. Yes, the globe has warmed and cooled over time, but the last 50 years don’t fit natural patterns, and most say human behavior is to blame. “I cannot see how else this can be explained,” said U.K. climate researcher Phil Jones, who noted that changing weather patterns fit climate-model forecasts. Adding to the grim vibe, a study published in Science says sea level rise due to global warming could be 59 percent higher than previously thought. Oh, waiter! Another pint of grog, please.