Climate study reveals average UK temperature in 2019 was 1.1C higher than between 1961 and 1990, with evidence of seasonal shifts already impacting the natural world
Global heating has set UK temperatures on a clear upwards trajectory which continues to accelerate, sparking seasonable shifts and knock-on impacts on the natural world, data contained in the latest Met Office climate report today show.
From 2010-19 the average temperature in the UK was 0.9°C warmer than that from 1961-1990, and 2019 alone was 1.1°C higher, according to the data, which is contained in the Met Office's sixth annual State of the UK Climate report released today.
All of the top ten warmest years in the UK on record have occurred since 2002, and while 2019 fell was the 12th warmest, it was nevertheless remarkable for setting a string of UK high temperature records, including a new all-time temperature record of 38.7°C on 25 July in Cambridge. In addition, a new winter record of 21.2°C was set on 26 February 2019 in Kew Gardens, London, and there was a new December record of 18.7°C in Achfary, Sutherland, the report notes.
Further supporting the warming trend, the most recent decade from 2010-19 has had six per cent fewer days of air frost and ten per cent fewer days of ground frost in the UK compared to the 1981-2010 average, the report finds. Both had 16 per cent fewer compared to 1961-1990.
Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office's National Climate Information Centre said the statistics reveal "an undeniable warming trend for the UK".
"The observed changes are to varying degrees a consequence of both global climate change and natural variability in our climate," he explained.
The State of the UK Climate Reports are published annually in the Royal Meteorological Society's International Journal of Climatology, which also contain an analysis of sea levels, authored by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).
Director of the NOC Professor Edward Hill warned sea levels are "expected to continue to rise due to an increased rate of ice loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets, as well as continued glacier mass loss and warming of the ocean".
"An immediate consequence will be higher extreme sea-levels, which cause flooding and threaten lives, property and key infrastructure," he explained
However, although the latest report notes that the "UK sea level index for 2019 was the highest on record," this is based on data from just one site, as no other "is producing data of sufficient quality," Hill cautioned. "High-frequency, high-accuracy, coastal sea-level monitoring is essential," he said.
The report also details findings from the Woodland Trust, which monitored how the British seasons are being impacted by climate change. The conservation charity's chief executive, Darren Moorcroft, said warmer weather and milder spring temperatures last year saw the first leaves appear on trees almost 10 days earlier than the baseline period. These seasonal shifts, he warned, "could have dire impacts further down the food chain".
"Our trees, and all the wildlife they support, are on the frontline of climate change," Moorcroft said. "This is a stark reminder of the need to take immediate action on climate change."
Gareth Redmond-King said the UK's rising temperatures were a "stark reminder that we are in a climate crisis", and called on world leaders to ensure strong action is taken at next year's UN climate change summit in Glasgow.
"This is a global problem - over the past year we have seen fires in the Amazon, Australia and the Arctic," he said. "The whole world has to act ahead of next year's UN climate conference; and as hosts we must urgently raise our ambition if the UK is to show global leadership. Right now, that means investing in a green recovery in the coming budget and spending review, for the sake of both people and planet."
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