Yesterday the Met Office confirmed that last year was the UK’s warmest since records began in 1884.
The data released yesterday showed the average temperature in the UK for 2022 was above 10 ᵒC for the first time, surpassing the previous all-time high of 9.88 ᵒC set in just 2014.
The findings, which confirmed provisional results published in December, come as the UK and large swathes of Europe are experiencing a winter heatwave, with temperatures far higher than expected for the time of year.
All told, the UK’s top 10 warmest years have all occurred since 2003 and the Met Office is very clear about what it thinks is to blame: “human induced climate change made the UK’s record breaking annual temperature around 160 times more likely”, reads the subdeck on the press release.
“We used climate models to compare the likelihood of a UK mean temperature of 10 °C in both the current climate and with historical human climate influences removed,” Dr Nikos Christidis, Met Office Climate Attribution Scientist, said. “The results showed that recording 10 °C in a natural climate would occur around once every 500 years, whereas in our current climate it could be as frequently as once every three to four years.”
“For now, all the evidence seems to be pointing in one direction: there’s more of this to come.”
By the end of the decade, under a medium emissions scenario, the Met Office predicts that average British temperatures could exceed 10 ᵒC almost every year.
What’s more, a higher average inevitably means there will be higher peaks — the UK also saw its hottest day on record last year, when a temperature of 40.3 ᵒC was recorded at Coningsby in Lincolnshire on 19 July. Many other places around England saw temperatures exceed 40 degrees too.
And while more hot weather might boost sales of ice cream and barbeques, it will also mean increased risk of wildfires, low rainfall and drought. We had a taste of this in 2022 when fire fighters battled flames across the nation and a drought was declared in large parts of England. For now, all the evidence seems to be pointing in one direction: there’s more of this to come.