Believe it or not, this was the tenth hottest year ever

Summer may have been a washout, but the world is still getting warmer

A A A

You may not have realised, as you shivered under the grey and drenching skies of August, that you were living through the 10th hottest year ever recorded – but you were.

Figures released by the UK Met Office show the last 12 months constitute the 10th warmest year in the global register, which dates back to 1850. The world's average temperature for 2008 was just over 14.3C, which is 0.3 degrees above the long-term average for 1961-1990.

Yet Britain experienced one of its poorest summers in 2008: it was the seventh wettest, and August was the dullest on record. Not only that: it followed immediately on 2007's record as the wettest of all summers in the record books. The two succeeding damp, cool and often sunless summers were disastrous not only for holidaymakers in Britain; they also played havoc with wildlife, especially insects, and butterflies in particular. For many people, 2008 was "the summer of no butterflies".

However, Britain was affected by these conditions, according to meteorologists, because of a particular phenomenon: the shifting southwards of the jetstream, the rapidly moving band of air between the polar and the tropical zones that directs the course of low-pressure systems across the Atlantic. This may have been caused in turn by La Niña, the occasional cooling of the central and eastern parts of the Pacific Ocean.

Across the world as a whole, temperatures continued to be solidly above the long-term average. This was according to a preliminary report released on behalf of the World Meteorological Organisation by scientists at the Met Office's Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.

Globally, the temperature was 0.31C above the 1961-90 average. In the northern hemisphere, the mean temperature was 0.51C above average (the eighth warmest on record) and in the southern hemisphere it was 0.11C above average (20th warmest).

Although the 2008 figure is slightly down on earlier years this century, partly because of the Niña that developed in 2007, global temperatures for 2000-2008 stand almost 0.2C warmer than the 1990-99 average.

The Hadley Centre's Peter Stott said that human actions were making the difference. "Human influence, particularly emission of greenhouse gases, has greatly increased the chance of having such warm years," he said.

"Comparing observations with the expected response to man-made and natural drivers of climate change, it is shown that global temperature is now over 0.7C warmer than if humans were not altering the climate. Without human influence on climate change we would be more than 50 times less likely of seeing a year as warm as 2008."

Commenting on the dramatically increased odds of such warm years because of human induced climate change, Dr Myles Allen, head of Climate Dynamics at Oxford University, said: "Globally this year would have been considered warm, even as recently as the 1970s or 1980s, but a scorcher for our Victorian ancestors."

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal