Met Office climate report: how hot will the UK get?

Britain is warming more quickly than global average over past decade, says study

Southend-on-Sea, England
(Image credit: John Keeble/Getty Images)

British summers could regularly reach a “new normal” of 40C within a decade warn meteorologists in a new study by the Met Office.

“Wild weather has been a feature of this UK summer thus far, with scorching sunshine, pouring rain and powerful thunderstorms all making an appearance,” says Sky News.

And all this comes after a “record-setting year”, continues the broadcaster, pointing to figures in the State of the UK Climate 2020 report showing that last year ranked in the top ten for heat, rainfall and sunshine, marking the first time one year had made it into the top ten for all three categories.

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The report paints “a clear picture of how climate change is already measurably impacting the UK”, says Sky.

Published in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology, the report warned that “recent decades have been warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century”.

Scorching summers...

The Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) also warns that British summers could hit highs of 40C every three to four years – regardless of whether global warming targets set out by the Paris climate agreement are met. That 2015 accord aims to limit global temperatures to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.

Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of RMetS, told the Daily Mail that the average temperature in the UK, as across the globe, has already increased by 1.2C and is likely to rise a further 0.3C in the coming years.

She said that extreme temperatures and heatwaves are “just going to become much more intense. We’re likely to see 40C in the UK although we have never seen those kinds of temperatures [before].

“That’s not just going to become something that we see once or twice – it’ll start to become something that we see on a much more regular basis.”

And according to the report, the UK land temperature during the past decade has been 1.1C warmer than 1961-1990, “meaning the UK is warming slightly quicker than the global average of 0.8C”, reports The Telegraph.

Increasing temperatures are likely to spark alarm among health experts. Indeed, a heatwave last August produced temperatures above 34C for six days, and claimed 1,700 lives, reports the Mail.

... but fewer snow days

Meanwhile, winters in the UK are likely to feel much milder, with days disrupted by extreme cold becoming fewer.

According to the report, the average winter temperature last year was 5.3C, up 1.6C on the 1981-2010 average.

It means “fewer snow days and less ice on the roads are… likely in future”, writes environment editor Emma Gatten in The Telegraph.

She explains that the number of days reaching freezing temperatures would also drop from 50 to 34 at 2C of warming.

The lead author of the report, Mike Kendon, a climate scientist at the Met Office, said the figures showed that the “baseline of our climate” is changing and warned the effects of man-made climate change will last “for a very, very long time”.

“Climate change isn’t just something that’s going to happen in the future. Climate change is something that is happening now,” he told Sky News.

“What these observations are showing us is that we are seeing this emerging pattern of more high-temperature extremes in the UK, but we’re also seeing more rainfall extremes for the UK, obviously as our climate warms, a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture.

“I’m worried. As a scientist, I’m worried looking at these observations. I’m a dad. I worry about the future for my children.”

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