2017 UK's fifth warmest year on record, says Met Office

Average temperature in past decade is 0.8C hotter and ‘notably wetter’ than the 30 years leading up to 1990

Last year was the fifth warmest on record for the UK, showing a clear warming trend above the long-term average, despite a wet summer last year and cold winter.

The average temperature over the past decade, since 2008, was 0.8C above the 30 year average to 1990. Summers over that period have also been “notably wetter”, the Met Office said, in its fourth annual State of the UK Climate report on Tuesday.

These figures do not take account of the recent heatwave and two-month dry spell over much of the country, which have caused wildfires and hazards across much of the country. Thunderstorms over the weekend and heavy rain have brought a temporary halt to the run of hot dry weather since the end of May, but temperatures are set to rise again later this week.

Mark McCarthy, manager of the Met Office’s national climate information centre, said the analysis confirmed that the UK’s climate was heating up. “Our climate is changing, globally and here in the UK,” he said. “People might not recall 2017 as having been a particularly warm year, with its relatively wet summer and snowfall in December. Despite this, when looking at the longer-term perspective, last year was still more than 1C above the 1961-1990 baseline.”

The second half of 2017 was closer to the long-term average in temperature, but warm weather from February to June, and in the month of October, pushed last year up the temperature rankings. UK land temperature record dates back reliably to 1910. Coastal water temperatures, for which a series exists since 1870, were also the fifth warmest on record, while sea levels have risen by 16cm since the start of the last century.

Compared with the long-term average, the last decade has seen 8% more rainfall and 6% more sunshine, but summers have changed particularly, with a 20% increase in rainfall compared to 1961 to 1990.

Mary Creagh, chair of parliament’s environmental audit committee, which recently warned of the need to adapt the UK’s infrastructure to a changing climate, called the report a “timely reminder”, along with this summer’s heatwave, of the pressure that the country will come under from warmer and wetter summers in future.

“We must do everything we can to protect our iconic landscapes and native plants and animals from the stresses of climate change,” she told the Guardian. “Climate change is real [and] will have profound impacts on everyone. We need to take steps now to help our children cope with the extreme changes and challenges that lie ahead.”

Campaigners warned that the changing climate was owing to man-made influences. “Our climate is changing before our very eyes,” said Rachel Kennerley, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “From droughts to wildfires, the consequences are extremely real. But while the planet heats, government action has cooled.”

She called on the government to heed advice from the Committee on Climate Change, which has called for an accelerated transition to electric vehicles and a renewed focus on renewable energy. “The government must make cutting [greenhouse gas emissions] a top priority, and do far more to help take the heat off our planet,” she said.

Nine of the UK’s 10 warmest years on record have been since 2002, and the top ten have all occurred since 1990. The longest weather record for the UK, the central England temperature series, which goes back to 1659, shows that the present century has so far been warmer than the previous three.

The nationwide figures from the Met Office also conceal important differences among the UK’s regions. Much of highland Scotland and lowland England were drier than usual last year, while Wales, the north-west and parts of south-west and north-east Scotland were wetter.

Stephen Cornelius, chief adviser for climate change at WWF, the conservation charity, said: “Climate change is not just a problem for others – this report shows that it affects us here in the UK. We’re in the age of consequences – extreme weather such as we’ve experienced this summer threatens our health, our water supplies, and our natural world. These extreme events will become normal if we don’t heed these warnings and act with urgency. The government needs to work harder to cut our carbon emissions and build a cleaner, greener economy.”


Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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