The Met Office has revealed the exact year when 40C summer heatwaves will be the norm in Britain. Scientists have said 2022’s hot, dry summer, which saw 40C temperatures recorded in the UK for the first time ever, was a “sign of things to come” for the UK’s climate.
Not only was last year the hottest in the UK according to Met Office records which began in 1884, but it was also the hottest on the Central England Temperature record that goes back to 1659.
The authors of the Met Office’s State Of The UK Climate 2022 said hot years like 2022 will be the average by 2060 if carbon emissions continue as expected. They described the 40C mark as “a real moment of climate history”.
Mike Kendon, climate scientist at the Met Office and the report’s lead author, said: “This was a rare event in the context of the current climate but our extremes of temperature are changing faster than our mean temperature and we know climate change increases the frequency, duration and spatial extent of heatwaves.”
He added that by the current emissions trajectory, 2022 would be considered a cool year by the standards expected for 2100.
Professor Liz Bentley, Chief Executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said: “If you look at future climate projections, we are on a path to go for hotter, drier summers.
“So 2022 for me was very much a sign of things to come in future years with our changing climate.”
The Met Office report, which tracks the progress of the UK’s changing climate each year, noted temperatures are rising above 36C more frequently than in the past.
Between 1961-1990 the highest temperature recorded was 31.3C; between 1991-2020 it was 33.5; between 2013-2022 it was 35.7C and in 2022 it was 40.3C.
Leaves were on the trees for 16 days longer than the 1999-2021 average and some flowers and insects emerged days earlier than usual.
Last year was also a relatively dry year, though not as extreme as 1976, and while summers are getting hotter and drier, the year-long climate trends show the UK is getting wetter generally.
Five of the 10 wettest years in the UK since 1836 have occurred in the 21st century and the UK saw its wettest February, April, June, November and December on record in the years after 2009.
Sea levels are also continuing to rise due to the melting ice sheets in the polar regions with long term trends showing the rate has doubled in recent years compared to the 20th century, said report author Dr Svetlana Jevrejeva of the National Oceanography Centre.