Texans aren't the only ones broiling this summer - the whole planet seems to be. According to figures released Monday, last month was the hottest ever, by half a degree, eclipsing July 1997 as record-holder.

Vice President Al Gore called a White House briefing to release the new statistics. He said July was the seventh month in a row that was hotter than the previous year, a trend he attributed to global warming. "It would be hard to ignore that something's going on - and that something is global warming."Gore reminded the audience that parts of Texas had 29 straight days of above 100 degrees in July.

"You don't have to be a scientist to know it's been hot this summer," Gore said. "It was the hottest month on record. Period."

The administration has been focusing on the hot weather as a way of supporting its push for approval of the Kyoto Agreement signed last year. Under that agreement, countries agree to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases.

Many climate experts fear that these gasses, which have been increasing in the atmosphere, will trap the sun's heat like a greenhouse, causing the Earth to increase its temperature.

Not all scientists agree, however, with some contending the hot weather is just part of the normal cycles in climate. There is also considerable skepticism in the Senate about the Kyoto agreement.

Gore also announced the establishment of eight new federally funded research centers to study the effects of environmental hazards on children's health. Children, particularly those with pulmonary illnesses such as asthma, are even more adversely affected by the smog and poor air quality that rising temperatures produce. Asthma in children increased 160 percent since 1980, and is now the top reason for childhood hospitalizations, according to Gore.