Climate change impacts uneven across the UK, Met Office reveals

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The UK Met Office has reported that climate change hasn’t been even across the UK, with some regions experiencing more rapid change than others.

Comparing two 30-year periods (1961-1990 and 1991-2020), the researchers found that the average temperature of the UK increased by 0.8°C, rainfall by 7.3%, and sunshine by 5.6%. However, in some parts of Central and Eastern England, including Bedfordshire, and Leicestershire, temperatures have increased by more than 1°C. In comparison, Scotland and Northern Ireland saw temperatures rises of approximately 0.7°C.

The report also found that annual average rainfall has increased by more than 10% between the two periods across a large swath of Scotland, as well as parts of Southwest England, Wales and Northern Ireland. With an increase of over 200mm of rainfall per year, Argyll and Bute is the county that has seen the greatest increase by volume. South Yorkshire, with a rise of just over 14mm per year, has seen the smallest rise by volume.

Along with total rainfall, the number of days recording 1mm or more of rain a year increased by an average of 5.6 days. The largest increases were seen in Scotland, where some areas saw an annual increase of more than 10 days. An increase of 12 days for the city of Glasgow contrasted with just one day in Cambridgeshire.

The locations that saw the greatest annual percentage increases in sunshine have been in northeastern and eastern England, which saw an increase of more than 13%. On the other hand, the number of days of air frost (when the air temperature drops below 0°C) reduced on average by 11.1 days. A number of areas across the UK have seen the annual number of air frost days fall by 14 days per year, including Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Rutland, Shetland, Staffordshire, County Antrim and County Londonderry.

Dr Mark McCarthy, the head of the Met Office National Climate Information Center, which manages the UK’s climate records, said, “The publication of climate data from the latest 30-year period is a perfect opportunity to describe some of the changes taking place in UK climate over the last six decades. The result of human-induced climate change in the UK is that higher temperatures are felt further north than they used to be.

“If you look at the average temperature for example, between 1991-2020, Hull has been warmer on average than Heathrow in London was during the previous climate averaging period 1961-1990. So average temperatures previously limited to London and parts of the far south of England are now experienced much further north, up to 250km (155 miles) away.

“Examining the pattern of climate change across the UK reveals an interesting pattern of regional variation. Over the periods, rainfall has generally increased with the greatest increases in the North and West. Average temperature has increased most in inland counties to the north of London, while sunshine has increased most in the Northeast of England. Much of what we are seeing at a local scale fits the national and international picture.”

In line with World Meteorological Organization guidelines, the UK Met Office measured the climate against 30-year ‘averaging’ periods. Known as ‘climate normal’ periods, these act as a benchmark against which the observational records of weather and climate can be compared to place them into context and as a reference baseline to provide context for future climate projections. This report published information from the latest 30-year period (1991-2020). The 30-year periods begin on January 1, of a year ending with the digit 1. The latest 30-year period ended on December 31, 2020. The 1991-2020 reference period will be adopted as the ‘normal’ for routine UK climate monitoring products in January. The 1961-1990 reference will be retained for the monitoring of longer-term climate change.

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As the latest addition to the UKi Media & Events team, Elizabeth brings research skills from her English degree to her keen interest in the meteorological and transportation industries. Having taken the lead in student and startup publications, she has gained experience in editing online and print titles on a wide variety of topics. In her current role as Editorial Assistant, Elizabeth will create new and topical content on the pioneering technologies in transportation, logistics and meteorology.

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