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UK hotter than it has been for 100 years due to climate change, Met Office reveals

Over past decade average temperature increased 0.8C and rainfall up 20 per cent compared to 30-year period ending in 1990

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Tuesday 31 July 2018 10:36 BST
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The UK has recently experienced a significant heatwave, and such events are likely to occur more frequently in the future
The UK has recently experienced a significant heatwave, and such events are likely to occur more frequently in the future (Getty Images)

Extreme weather is on the rise, with the UK hotter and wetter than it has been for decades.

According to the latest figures from the Met Office, 2017 was the fifth hottest year on record – and nine of the 10 hottest years over the past century have taken place since 2002.

The average temperature for the past decade was 0.8C higher than the 30-year period ending in 1990.

Despite the recent drought – which was not included in the new analysis – UK summers have also been getting wetter, with a 20 per cent increase in rainfall compared to that baseline period.

“Our climate is changing, globally and here in the UK. People may not recall 2017 as having been a particularly warm year, with a relatively wet summer and snow in December,” said Dr Mark McCarthy, manager of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre.

“Despite this, when looking at the longer-term perspective 2017 was still more than 1C above the 1961-1990 baseline and ranks fifth warmest year overall for the UK.”

Overall, the decade saw eight per cent more rainfall and six per cent more sunshine, showing that weather at both ends of the spectrum is getting more extreme.

As a heatwave scorched the nation last week, MPs released a report calling for action to deal with the UK’s rising temperatures.

“We must do everything we can to protect our iconic landscapes and native plants and animals from the stresses of climate change,” said Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, which released the report.

“This fascinating report from the Met Office is a timely reminder, alongside this summer’s heatwave, that our country is going to come under greater pressure from warmer, wetter summers in the future.”

Ms Creagh said climate change “will have profound impacts on everyone”. The committee concluded that heat-related deaths are likely to triple by the middle of the century unless the government acts urgently.

“We need to take steps now to help our children cope with the extreme changes and challenges that lie ahead in a world that is warmer by 1.5C,” she said.

The Central Line in the heatwave: How hot is it?

Research published by an international team as the heatwave was coming to a close revealed the European heatwave was made over twice as likely by climate change.

Besides setting records for temperature and rainfall, Met Office figures also showed that average sea level around the country has risen at a rate of around 1.4 mm every year since the start of the 20th century – an overall rise of about 16 cm.

“Climate change is not just a problem for others – this report shows that it affects us here in the UK,” said Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief advisor for climate change at WWF.

“We’re in the age of consequences – extreme weather such as we’ve experienced this summer threatens our health, our water supplies, and our natural world. These extreme events will become normal if we don’t heed these warnings and act with urgency.

“The UK government needs to work harder to cut our carbon emissions and build a cleaner, greener economy.”

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