UK likely to swelter in frequent 40C summers even if global warming is limited

The UK is likely to swelter in regular 40C summers, experts warn, even if global warming is limited to 1.5C.

We are already experiencing increasingly extreme weather, with 2020 the third-warmest, fifth-wettest and eighth-sunniest year on record.

Data in The State Of The UK Climate 2020 report reveals the average winter temperature last year was 5.3C – 1.6C higher than the 1981-2010 average.

December 2019 to February 2020 was the fifth-warmest winter on record.

Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said the world was already 1.1C to 1.2C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures.

She added: “If you take that up by another 0.3C, these [heatwaves] are just going to become much more intense.

“We’re likely to see 40C in the UK although we have never seen those kinds of temperatures [before].

“As we hit 1.5C of global warming, that’s going to… become something that we see on a much more regular basis.”

Mike Kendon, Met Office climate scientist and the report’s lead author, said it revealed the UK’s new normal.

He added: “In seven out of the last 10 years, we’ve seen temperatures of 34C in the UK compared to seven out of the previous 50 years before that.

“Our baseline of our climate is changing and what we regard as normal is changing.” He also said the 49.6C experienced by Canadians on the country’s west coast this year would have been “pretty much impossible without the influence of man-made warming”.

Rainfall has also been affected.

Two of the UK’s three wettest days – of the 47,000 on record – were February 15 and October 3 of last year.

Last year the first-leaf dates for a range of British shrub and tree species were on average 10.4 days earlier than for the 1999-2019 baseline.

Dr Darren Moorcroft, chief executive of the Woodland Trust, raised the possibility of species becoming “out of sync with each other in the… environment”.

He said food-chain breakdowns could mean some species struggle to survive.


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