The outlook for the rest of the century: 40C summer days

Official report predicts impact of climate change on British weather


Frightening temperature increases which would make life difficult if not intolerable are forecast for Britain during the course of the coming century, according to the latest detailed Government predictions of how climate change may affect the United Kingdom.

London's hottest summer day, which in recent decades has averaged 30.7 degrees Celsius, or 91.6 Fahrenheit, could increase by 10 degrees C to 40.7C or 105.3F, a staggering rise – which would make travel on the London Underground, for example, where the increase would be further magnified, virtually unendurable – with a high probability of increased deaths from heat stress among the old and infirm.

Similar huge increases are forecast for every region of Britain in the first localised forecasts of the potential impacts of global warming. Also for the first time, detailed projections of drought, increased winter rainstorms and sea level rise are made for each area, showing for instance that Southwold, a Suffolk coastal resort already threatened with erosion, faces a sea level rise of 37cm, or 14in, by the 2080s, while London itself could face a similar rise, with the threat of an additional 97cm, or 3ft, of storm surge.

The long-awaited predictions, which update forecasts last made in 2002, were based on extensive computer modelling by the Met Office's Hadley Centre, and were unveiled by the Environment Secretary, Hilary Benn, who said they would "affect every aspect of our daily lives".

Despite a certain level of uncertainty in the models, Mr Benn said, it was clear that climate change was occurring, and he hit out at those denying it, following after sceptical questions in the House of Commons from two Tory MPs, Andrew Tyrie and Peter Lilley. "If there are those in society who still think this isn't happening and we don't need to worry, who think we can pull up the bedcovers and it'll all go away, they are profoundly mistaken," he said.

The predictions are based on different scenarios of the future emissions of the greenhouse gases which are causing the earth's atmosphere to warm, and thus highlight the worldwide need to cut emissions back substantially, which will be the focus of the world climate conference in Copenhagen in December.

At the moment the world is close to the medium emissions pathway, and this is likely to mean an average regional summer temperature rise by the 2080s of 4C, which could be 5C in the south-east.

Summer rainfall under this scenario is likely to drop by between 11 and 27 per cent, meaning drought, and winter rainfall is likely to increase by between 11 and 23 per cent, causing flooding.

However, the important thrust of the new projections for Britain is that we are now committed to quite a lot of climate change, no matter what we do, as the full effects of greenhouse gases take about 30 years to work through from the moment they are emitted and so there is climate change yet to come from carbon dioxide which is already up there.

So the new figures suggest it is virtually certain, whatever climate deal the world can put together, that by the 2040s, summers in southern England will be about 2.3C (more than 4F) hotter on average than they are now. This means that Britain's hottest summer in 2003 when the temperature exceeded 100F for the first time, will in 30 years' time be the norm – and by the 2080s it will seem like a cool summer.

The projections meant, said Mr Benn, "that we must plan to adapt to changes that are now unavoidable" – and they will be the starting point for a major Government effort at climate change adaptation, which will take in everything from flood defence and NHS heatwave planning to how to design roads and buildings and how to help wildlife cope with a changing world.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine