This year is on track to be the world's second warmest on record, experts warned yesterday.

The heavy flooding here this week and the heatwave in Greece may herald even greater disruptions from global warming, they said.

Their comments came as the European Commission advised leaders to 'adapt or die' in the face of climate change.

Firefighters in Greece tackle forest fires caused by extremely hot and dry conditions.

Based on temperature records to the end of April, 2007 will be the second warmest year since records began in the 1860s. The warmest was 1998.

Phil Jones, head of the Climatic Research Unit at Britain's University of East Anglia, which supplies data to the UN's International Meteorological Organisation, said: "It could change, but at the moment this looks unlikely."

He had predicted late last year that 2007 could surpass 1998, due to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases emitted mainly by burning fossil fuels and an El Nino warming of the Pacific.

In terms of extreme events, more than 500 have died in storms and floods in Britain, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in the past week.

Temperatures in Greece reached 46C (114.80F) this week, as part of a heatwave in southern Europe. China has also had a heatwave in recent days.

Thick smoke from forest fires over Piraeus port in Athens.

And torrential rains have battered parts of Texas, where Austin is set for its wettest year on record.

Almost all climate experts say that the trend is towards more droughts, floods, heatwaves and more powerful storms. Yesterday, Salvano Briceno, director of the Geneva-based secretariat of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, said that the world had to work out better policies to prepare for disasters.

Many were cramming into cities, for instance, in plains where there was already a risk of floods or moving to regions vulnerable to droughts.

"We need to reduce all the underlying risk factors, such as by locating communities out of hazard-prone areas," he said.

In Brussels, environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "Europe needs to adapt now to unavoidable climate change which is already happening.

"In Britain there is really bad flooding and destruction on a scale rarely seen before, and there is more bad weather on the way. At the same time in Greece and southern Europe a heatwave is raging, with reports of the deaths of many people.

"For some people in some parts of Europe it is literally a case of adapt or die."