The news arrived like an old phonograph record with a scratch: Last month was the hottest on record.

August was the eighth month in a row to set a new average high temperature worldwide, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday."The trend is up, and it will keep going up," Vice President Al Gore commented at the White House. Gore is a prime proponent of the view that the Earth is gradually warming due to a buildup of man-made gases in the atmosphere. There is disagreement on this theory in the scientific community.

According to the NOAA analysis, the average global temperature for August was 61.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

That broke the previous August record of 61.1 degrees set in 1997 and is 1.3 degrees above the long-term average of 60.1 degrees for August.

"Each month this year has set new all-time record global near-surface temperatures," the agency noted.

For the year to date, the average global temperature of 58.5 degrees Fahrenheit was also 1.3 degrees above the long-term average of 57.2.

That average is based on data from 1880 to 1997, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the NOAA's record-keeping division.

During August, surface warmth was evident over much of the globe, with cool areas in Europe, Alaska, Siberia, Bangladesh, the South Atlantic and the Central Pacific, the agency said.

In the Central Pacific, sea surface temperatures were below normal, an event commonly referred to as La Nina, although ocean temperatures off the northwest coast of South America remained warm.

In the United States, the January through August period has been the fifth-wettest and fourth-warmest on record.

For the year to date, the nation has had an average of 22.77 inches of precipitation. The normal for the period is 20.05 inches. The wettest January through August period was in 1979, with 23.34 inches of precipitation.

1934 had the warmest January through August period for the United States, with a record 56.9 degrees. In 1998, the temperature for the period was 56.2 degrees. The normal for January through August is 54.3 degrees.