UK temperature records reveal climate change impact

Last year saw a series of new high temperatures as climate change exerts “an increasing impact” on the UK, the Met Office has said.

Polly Smith and Daisy Tolmie, both aged five, enjoy the warm weather at W
ardie Bay. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Polly Smith and Daisy Tolmie, both aged five, enjoy the warm weather at W ardie Bay. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

The latest annual State of the UK Climate review compiled by the meteorological experts shows how the country continues to warm, with 2019’s average temperature 1.1C above long-term 1961-1990 levels.

The most recent decade has been 0.9C warmer across the UK than the 1961-1990 average, the report said.

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Last year was most notable for breaking records, with the UK recording its hottest temperature ever as the mercury soared to 38.7C (101.7F) at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens on 25 July.

That was not the only temperature high seen in 2019, with a new winter record of 21.2C (70.2F) set on February 26, at Kew Gardens in London, the first time 20C has been reached in the UK in a winter month.

There was also a new December record of 18.7C (65.7F) on the 28th of the month in Achfary, Sutherland.

A new record for the mildest daily minimum temperature for February was set when temperatures did not dip below 13.9C (57F) in Achnagart in the Highlands on the 23rd.

No cold temperature records were set last year, the report said.

The changing climate is also bringing other extremes, with flooding hitting parts of Lincolnshire in mid-June, parts of the Pennines and northern England in late July, and South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire in November 2019.

All of the ten warmest years in the UK in records dating back to 1884 have occurred since 2002, with 2019 coming in outside the top ten, in 12th place.

And the Central England Temperature series, the longest continuous temperature record in the world, which has data for an area of central England stretching back to 1659, provides evidence that the 21st century so far has overall been warmer than the previous three centuries, the Met Office said.

Met Office lead author Mike Kendon said: “Our report shows climate change is exerting an increasing impact on the UK’s climate.

“This year was warmer than any other year in the UK between 1884 and 1990, and since 2002 we have seen the warmest 10 years in the series.

“By contrast, to find a year in the coldest 10 we have to go back to 1963 - over 50 years ago.”

Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, said: “The climate statistics over time reveal an undeniable warming trend for the UK.

“We are also reporting on changes in other aspects of our weather and environment, such as rainfall, snow, sunshine, sea level and even tree leafing dates.”

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