UK weather more extreme due to climate change, says Met Office

Posted at 5:36 AM, Nov 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-02 07:36:47-04

Climate change has led to an increase of extreme weather events in the UK, including higher average temperatures, longer warm spells and more tropical nights, the country’s weather service has said.

The coldest days in the UK over the past decade were 1.7 degrees Celsius warmer than between 1961 and 1990, while the warmest days were 0.8 degrees hotter, the Met Office found.

Tropical nights, in which temperatures don’t fall below 20.1 degrees Celsius overnight and which were virtually unheard of when records began, have become more common and now need to be measured regularly, the government body said.

And warm spells — when the temperature is well above average trends for the same time of year — have more than doubled in duration, lasting 13.2 days on average in the past decade, compared with 5.3 days before 1991.

“However you measure weather and climate statistics, you are beginning to see trends that underline the trend of average global warming,” Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge told CNN. “You can see a fingerprint of climate change within these figures,” he said.

The report examined extreme weather events, such as highest and lowest average temperatures and dry and wet spells.

“What’s concerning is that it’s extremes which people will notice more — things like hot spells, intense rainfall,” Madge said. “It will be in the measurement of extremes where climate change will be really apparent.”

England experienced its hottest summer ever this year as an unusually long heat wave gripped Europe, the Met Office said in September.

A number of extreme weather events have also occurred around the world in 2018, including drought in Australia and record heat in Japan and South Korea.

The study found that total rainfall on “extremely wet days” has increased by 17% on average, while the average longest dry spell each year has shortened to 18 days from 20.5 days.

‘Nobody is immune’

Tropical nights have been detected often enough that the body will begin measuring them.

“It’s a measure that a few years ago wouldn’t have necessarily been that regular at all… now we are seeing it occurring on an annual basis in a few places in the UK,” Madge said.

“That is a particular challenge for many people who need respite from high temperatures,” he added. “A lot of these particular metrics do have consequences behind them.”

The findings reflect a number of international studies that have found a changing climate, the Met Office said.

In October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the planet will reach the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030, leading to risks of extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.

“Nobody is immune from the weather,” the Met Office’s Madge said, stressing the importance of “not just the public, but industry, government, (and) all sectors” understanding the trends of a changing climate.

The planet has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and global net emissions of carbon dioxide will need to fall to “net zero” by 2050 to keep to rise limited to 1.5 degrees, according to the IPCC.