Climate change: Threefold increase in heatwaves revealed by UK temperature records

Study ‘adds to growing evidence of impacts of climate change’, Grantham Institute says

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Tuesday 22 January 2019 13:45
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The heatwave has revealed hidden archaeological sites across Britain's countryside

Heatwaves in the UK are up to three times more frequent today than at the end of the 19th century, according to a new study.

Over the same period, the duration of heatwaves has also increased two to threefold.

Scientists analysed data stretching back decades collected by the Central England Temperature record, the largest collection of daily temperature measurements in the world.

They focused on days when temperatures exceeded 28C, the definition of overheating under modern UK building rules.

“Heatwaves are by definition rare events, so putting numbers on their frequency, duration and severity is a challenge,” said professor Sandra Chapman from the University of Warwick, who led the study.

“However, as hotter days become more frequent, heatwaves will on average become more likely and longer lasting and if we have the data, this is something we can quantify.”

The findings, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, follow a summer in which the nation was scorched by a heatwave that many saw as a sign of global warming in action.

A Met Office report concluded climate change made the heatwave 30 times more likely than it would have been under natural conditions.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said the new study “adds to the growing evidence of the impacts of climate change that are already occurring”.

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