Why is the weather so warm and should we be concerned?

The coast off Aberystwyth Credit: @callumringer/Twitter/PA

A year on from the Beast from the East which left Britons shivering, February 2019 is set to be the warmest on record, with temperatures exceeding 20C in some places.

But while many of us are enjoying the unseasonal warmth, are these record breaking temperatures something we should be concerned about and how do they fit into the wider picture of climate change?

  • What weather records have been broken?

The temperature reached 20.6C (68.5F) at Trawsgoed in Ceredigion, west Wales, on Monday, making it the UK’s warmest February day on record and marking the first time the temperature has exceeded 20C (68F) in winter (December to February).

It is also the earliest recording of an above 20C (68F) temperature in a calendar year, since 20.2C (68.4F) was recorded at Exeter Airport on March 2, 1977.

To put these numbers in context, the average temperature in February is a chilly 8C, according to the Met Office.

Credit: PA Graphics
  • Why is it so warm?

According to the Met Office the record-breaking conditions are a result of warm air combining with a period of sunshine across the UK, resulting in higher temperatures.

Winds from the south and southeast of the country, including from Spain and Africa, are pushing air over a part of Wales that has the greatest “land track”, causing it to get gradually warmer.

The further the air travels over land the more moisture it loses and faster it heats up, the Met Office said.

People enjoy the warm weather on Boscombe Pier in Dorset. Credit: PA
  • Should we be concerned by the warm weather?

As Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said, "it’s impossible to shake the feeling that this isn’t right," while Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill described these record breaking temperatures as "exceptional".

Weather and climate are not the same. Weather refers to the day-to-day conditions, while climate is information amassed from data collected over a standard period of 30 years that provides the overarching weather pattern of a region.

And while experts can not link one weather event to climate change, viewed in light of other recent climate reports it is hard not to consider these high temperatures as part of a warming trend that could see the earth about one degree warmer than it used to be.

Sunrise over Whitley Bay on 26 February 2019. Credit: PA

The Met Office said the predictions around climate change are that the UK will experience greater extremes of weather, including more higher and lower temperatures and unsettled conditions at times.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said: "Today's record for the UK's winter temperature is consistent with the clear climate change signal that we are seeing in the UK."

He said the climate was transforming towards warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers - such as last year's heatwave summer - with impacts on people and wildlife.

Ms Lucas linked the warm weather to concerns over “climate breakdown” and called on the government to “wake up to this crisis”.

The warm weather is confusing hedgehogs. Credit: PA
  • How is affecting our wildlife?

The unseasonably warm weather has prompted birds to try nesting, butterflies to emerge and hedgehogs to come out of hibernation early, experts said.

Migrant swallows and house martins have even been spotted arriving in the UK more than a month early, the RSPB said.

Conservationists are warning the early start to spring, which they say could be linked to climate change, could lead to a "real crisis" for nature if the weather reverts to colder conditions, such as those seen in March last year.

Snow falling in Edinburgh, on February 28 last year Credit: PA
  • How long will the warm weather last?

February has not quite let go of its usually icy grip, with the Met Office warning later in the week temperatures will drop and conditions will become more changeable.