Anybody enjoying the spell of recent warm weather might not be surprised to learn that 2014 has managed to break records - according to the Met Office, the period from January to September this year was the warmest such period for the UK since records began in 1910.
In 1963 the average temperature between January and September was 7.8C. It got warmer over the following decades, reaching a peak in 2006 when temperatures between January and September were 10.2C.
That record was broken this year - temperatures to September have been 10.6C. September 2014 was not only the warmest on record, it was also the driest September on record, though the period between January and September this year was still the sixth wettest due to this year’s winter rain.
According to Bob Ward, policy and communications Director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, the figures show the inexorable march of climate change in the UK. Climate change is not an issue for far in the future, he says, something to think about in 50 years’ time, but it is happening now.
“The average temperature of the UK has increased by about 1ºC since 1970,” wrote Ward in a briefing. “The 10 warmest years for the UK since records began in 1910, in descending order, are: 2006, 2011, 2007, 2003, 2004, 2002, 2005, 1990, 1997, 1949. January to September 2014 has been the warmest such period on record. This warming is having a variety of impacts.
For instance, it is affecting the changing of the seasons, with spring, in particular now arriving earlier. The risk of heatwaves is also increasing. The summer heatwaves in 2003, 2006 and 2009 all caused an increase in heat-related deaths in the UK. Scientists have concluded that climate change doubled the chance of the 2003 heatwave occurring, which affected a wide area of northern Europe.”
Ward added that this consistent warming meant that climate scientists, while necessarily cautious in their interpretation of data and reluctance to link extreme weather events to climate change, need to change their tack. Climate change is a public policy issue, he said, and scientists need to take more responsibility to keep the public fully informed about the problems coming down the track.