Last year’s record-breaking temperatures in the UK are a sign of the country’s changing climate, according to the latest Met Office State of the UK Climate report.
The 2022 report highlights how the UK’s climate continues to change, with recent decades warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century. Although the UK has warmed at a broadly consistent rate compared to the observed change in global mean temperature, observations show that in the UK, temperature extremes are changing much faster than the average temperature.
A new all-time temperature record of 40.3°C was set on July 19 during an unprecedented heatwave, exceeding the previous record by a wide margin and smashing records for many long-running stations.
Not only was 2022 the first year in the UK when 40°C was recorded, it was also the warmest year in records back to 1884. The world’s longest running instrumental temperature series dating back to 1659, the Central England Temperature (CET) record, also recorded its hottest year on record.
Met Office studies found both the record warm year and July heatwave were made more likely by human induced climate change.
A key feature of 2022 was the persistent warmth throughout the year. All months of the year except December were warmer than the 1991-2020 average.
The 10-year period from 2013-2022, representing a ‘snapshot’ of the UK’s current climate, is also the warmest 10-year period in both the UK series from 1884 and CET series from 1659.
The report also puts the UK’s observed climate into future context, using the Met Office UKCP18 climate projections. In a medium emissions scenario (RCP4.5), by 2060 a year like 2022 would be considered an average year, by 2100 it would be considered a ‘cool’ year.
Mike Kendon from the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre, said, “In terms of weather and climate, 2022 was an extraordinary year for the UK. It was the warmest year for the UK in our long-running record national series back to 1884, and for Central England in a series of more than three centuries. We also had an unprecedented heatwave, with 40°C recorded in the UK for the first time, marking a moment of climate history.
“However, we should not necessarily be surprised by these events: studies have shown that both the record warm year and July heatwave were both made much more likely by climate change. The observations show that extremes of temperature are changing faster than the average, and as our climate warms, we expect far more high temperature records to be broken, potentially by wide margins, and far fewer low temperature records.
“UK climate projections show that even under a medium emissions scenario, a year like 2022, currently the warmest year on record, could be the norm by the middle of the century and relatively cool buy the end of the century. Our climate in the UK has a lot of year-to-year variability, but taken overall, 2022 is a potential warning of what we should expect in the future.”
The detailed annual assessment of the UK’s climate compares the current climate to historical observations of temperature, rainfall, sunshine and wind. The report also includes contributions on sea level rise and ecology from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and Woodland Trust respectively. The report is published in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology and is the ninth version of the annual report.
Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive at the Royal Meteorological Society, said, “This report is the authoritative annual summary of the UK climate. It not only helps to highlight the latest knowledge on our changing climate but also enables us to understand the trends, risks and impacts to help inform how we will need to adapt, now and in the future.
“2022 was certainly a record-breaking year for the UK and is another example that extreme heat events are becoming more frequent, intense and prolonged because of human-induced climate change – something we are seeing being played out across Europe as the report is being published.”
To view the complete State of the UK Climate 2022 report, click here.