Climate crisis fuelling unseasonably warm October in UK and Europe, say experts

Temperatures expected to hit 20C in UK, Germany and France this weekend

Three months ago, Britain experienced its hottest day on record. Records were similarly broken in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands as an extreme heatwave swept across much of Europe.

Now, with much of western Europe experiencing unusually mild autumnal temperatures caused by the jet stream – strong winds blowing from west to east – figures are expected to reach 20C this weekend in parts of Britain, Germany, France and elsewhere, according to national weather services.

While scientists say much of this is part of a natural weather pattern, or the “luck of the draw”, they say it is clear that the climate crisis is contributing to higher temperatures.

“Part of this [jet stream] is a natural weather pattern,” said Peter Stott, a climate change expert.

“But again the impact is being exacerbated by climate change, because it’s giving us not just the warmer temperatures when we have these types of weather patterns, but also giving us higher rainfall when we get it,” he said.

In the coming days, the Met Office forecasts it will be unusually warm in much of mainland Europe, not just the UK, which has been experiencing temperatures above average. The unseasonably high temperatures are expected to drop in November, however, bringing changeable and unsettled conditions, according to the Met Office.

“It’s not necessarily clear that these jet stream shifts are necessarily linked to climate change in and of themselves” said Christopher O’Reilly, a research fellow at the University of Reading’s meteorology department. “But it’s very clear that when you have these particular conditions given the warming climate, they obviously bring warmer temperatures.”

The mild temperatures come amid dire concerns from the UN’s environment agency, which says countries’ pledges to cut carbon emissions have been “woefully inadequate”. An analysis by the world’s leading energy organisation found global carbon emissions from energy will peak in 2025 thanks to increased government spending on clean fuels in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Climate Central, an independent group of scientists, launched an online tool on Thursday quantifying the contribution of climate change to global daily temperatures in real time.

While high October temperatures in the UK are not unusual – the past decade has seen several examples above 20C, including 23.9C (75F) in 2018 and 29.9C (86F) in 2011 – Europe stood out globally in recent days with very strong climate shift index scores, said Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at Climate Central.

Index scores in the UK are currently at level two, meaning temperatures are twice as likely due to climate change, according to the platform. In southern Europe, across the coasts of Spain, France and Italy, scores are as high as three or four.

“At these levels – level two, level three – we tend to talk about that as climate change is playing a significant role in boosting the odds of the temperatures that you’re experiencing today,” said Pershing.

“This is signalling to you that you know that these are the conditions that are going to become more common in your location,” he said. “While the fall conditions are certainly unusual in Europe right now, they’re going to become more and more common as the years go on and as climate change progresses.”

• This article was amended on 28 October 2022. An earlier version mistakenly said that 2018 saw the UK’s hottest October on record.


Geneva Abdul

The GuardianTramp

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