The Met Office says the UK is getting warmer and sunnier but also wetter as a result of climate change. 2020 was third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest on record for the UK.
The latest analysis of the UK climate, State of the UK Climate 2020 published in The Royal Meteorological Society’s ‘International Journal of Climatology’, has shown that climate change is already being felt across the UK. All of the top-ten warmest years for the UK in records back to 1884 have occurred since 2002, and, for central England, the 21st century so far has been warmer than the previous three centuries.
Lead author and Senior Climate Scientist at the Met Office, Mike Kendon, said:
“2020 was another notable year for the UK climate, with records broken for daily rainfall and monthly sunshine hours. Average temperatures for the UK continue to climb, with nearly a degree of warming when comparing the most recent 30 years with the preceding 30-year period. Last year saw some significant weather extremes including severe flooding from heavy rainfall in February and a major heatwave in early August.”
The last 30-year period (1991-2020) has been 0.9°C warmer than the preceding 30 years (1961-1990). The warming trend is evident across all months and all countries in the UK.
As well as increased temperatures, the UK has been on average 6% wetter over the last 30 years (1991-2020) than the preceding 30 years (1961-1990). Six of the ten wettest years for the UK in a series from 1862 have occurred since 1998.
Storms Ciara and Dennis, hitting the UK only one week apart, were part of the UK’s wettest February on record, and brought devastating flooding affecting many homes and businesses. Most of the UK received more than twice the February long-term average rainfall, with 300% quite widely in the north and west, and over 400% in parts of the Pennines.
The UK has had its wettest February in 2020, December in 2015, April and June in 2012 and November in 2009 – five out of 12 months – in little over a decade.
Sea Temperature and Sea Level Rise
The average sea-surface temperature in 2020 for near-coast waters around the UK was 11.9°C, 0.5°C above the 1981-2010 long-term average. This was the eighth-warmest year for UK near-coast sea-surface temperatures in records dating back to 1870.
In the most recent decade (2011-2020) sea-surface temperatures have been 0.7°C warmer than the 1961–1990 average, and nine of the ten warmest years in near-coast sea-surface temperatures have occurred since 2002.
Sea level rise has accelerated in the UK over recent years. The rate of sea level rise has been 1.5mm/yr from the start of the 20th century, however, for the period 1993-2019 it has increased to over 3mm/yr.