The UK Met Office has announced that its heatwave thresholds are to be updated ahead of summer 2022 due to the impact of climate change.
However, it has said that warming across the country has not been uniform with some regions experiencing more rapid changes than others. Heatwave thresholds in eight counties in a band from Surrey to east Yorkshire are now changing.
Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, which manages the UK’s climate records, said, “Climate statistics over time reveal an undeniable warming trend for the UK. Temperature rise has been greatest across parts of central and eastern England where they have increased by more than 1.0°C in some locations, while further north areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen temperatures rise by closer to 0.7°C.”
The original heatwave thresholds were based on a reference climate period for 1981-2010. The heatwave definition was intended to be flexible and to be reviewed and revised to follow the changing climate and represent heatwaves relative to the “current” climate. Therefore, the thresholds are moving to the most recent 1991-2020 climate averaging period introduced in January this year. Six counties are moving from a 27°C threshold to 28°C, one from 26°C to 27°C, and one from 25°C to 26°C.
Counties changing from a 27C to a 28C threshold: Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire.
Counties changing from a 26C to a 27C threshold: Lincolnshire.
Counties changing from a 25C to a 26C threshold: East Riding of Yorkshire.
McCarthy added, “Although heatwaves are extreme weather events research shows that climate change is making these events more likely. A scientific study by the Met Office into the summer 2018 heatwave in the UK showed that it was 30 times more likely to occur now than in 1750 because of the higher concentration of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere. As greenhouse gas concentrations increase heatwaves of similar intensity are projected to become even more frequent, perhaps occurring as regularly as every other year.”