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expert reaction to the 6th State of the UK Climate report

The Met Office have published their sixth annual State of the UK Climate report.

 

Prof Richard Allan, Professor of Climate Science at the University of Reading, said:

“The record hot days and sticky nights observed in the UK during 2019 are an expected result of a warming climate that is intensifying heatwaves as well as heavy rainfall events, whenever they occur. What is not captured in these reports are the remote consequences of climate change that are increasingly affecting our country through effects on global food prices, environmental degradation and national security. More severe global and local consequences of a heating planet demand rapid changes in how we conduct our lives and plan for the future – and the

“COVID19 crisis has shown rapid changes are possible – the only solution to human-caused climate change is cutting out harmful greenhouse gas emissions across all activities and industries.”

 

Dr Karsten Haustein, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“The series of high temperature records in 2019 is exactly in line with what one would expect to happen in a warming climate. Fewer cold extremes, more warm extremes, regardless of the season. It’s particularly startling to realise that a ‘normal’ year now (ranking just 12th warmest of all years since 1884) is warmer than any year before 1990. And a ‘normal’ year under current climate conditions is capable of setting a new all-time temperature record.

“While the margin of the new heat record (38.7°C in Cambridge on 25 July 2019) was small compared to the previous one (38.5°C during the August 2003 heat wave), in a rapid attribution study conducted by the international World Weather Attribution team, we found that the likelihood for a heat event like this to occur has increased by at least a factor of two in comparison to a world without human-induced climate change.” 

 

Dr Friederike Otto, Acting Director of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“This report adds to a large body of evidence showing that the impacts of climate change are already being felt in the UK. While other drivers are as important for many extreme events, for heat waves climate change is a real game changer. Rapid analysis from the World Weather Attribution initiative showed that the record-breaking 38.7° C heat in Cambridgeshire in 2019 was made at least twice as likely due to climate change, which means the odds have already much more than doubled. With the UK warming trend identified in this report continuing, we would expect to see heatwaves such as that becoming even more common in future. And, for other extreme events like droughts and floods the climate change signal would also become much more important.”

 

Prof Martin Siegert, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, and Professor of Geosciences at Imperial College London, said:

“Climate warming, for which there is clear, unambiguous and undeniable evidence, isn’t happening gracefully. Measurements of past changes, for example from the end of the last ice age, inform us that as the climate is pushed toward a new warmer state the weather becomes characterised by exaggerated extremes. We are now starting to see what scientists have been predicting for some time; that human-induced warming is now delivering unusual weather systems, leading to both hotter and colder periods than we are accustomed to. That 2019 was not the hottest year on average in the UK (it was still hot compared with the last 100 years), the weather records that have been broken inform us to expect more records as global warming continues; more heatwaves and droughts, more rainfall and floods, and more snow and icy-cold blasts. The longer we leave it until we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, the worse our future weather is likely to be. The future is still ours to decide, but we must act with urgency to reduce our net emissions to zero if we are to avoid further and increased extreme weather in the UK.”

 

Dr Paulo Ceppi, Lecturer in Climate Science at the Grantham Institute- Climate Change and the Environment, Imperial College London, said:

“The results in the Met Office report are consistent with our understanding of the impact of global warming on the UK climate: we expect fewer extreme cold events, and increasingly frequent extreme warm events. It is therefore unsurprising that the UK recorded four high temperature records, including the all-time UK maximum temperature, while no national record lows were broken. While global temperature has risen by about 1°C relative to the mid-19thcentury, the UK is warming faster than the global average because land areas warm faster than the oceans. Looking into the future, we expect these trends to continue unless human carbon emissions are reduced to near zero.”

 

Dr Heather Graven, Senior Lecturer in Climate Physics and Earth Observation, Imperial College London, said:

“The report shows that record temperatures are marching upward as expected from global warming. The changes are happening here and now, and they are having impacts on our farmers, wildlife and communities. We need to progress toward net zero greenhouse gas emissions to slow and stop the effects of climate change.”

 

Dr Bonnie Waring, Senior Lecturer, Grantham Institute – Climate Change and Environment, Imperial College London, said:

“The high-quality data in this report reveal not only the fingerprint of climate change on weather patterns across the UK, but also foreshadows some of the consequences for our ecosystems and wildlife. Changes in the timing of leaf emergence and shedding mean that plants, which comprise the base of the food web, are already being impacted by changes in temperature and rainfall. We need urgent action to reduce emissions and help mitigate some of the consequences for wildlife, as weather extremes will only continue to intensify.”

 

Prof Dave Reay, Professor of Carbon Management and Executive Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, University of Edinburgh, said:

“2019 may seem a world away, but seeing these temperature records go down like sweaty skittles is a stark reminder that climate change is still tightening its grip on all our futures.

“From heat stress, air quality and flood risks in our towns and cities, to droughts, wildfires and fractured food webs in our countryside, no corner of the UK is immune to the impacts of climate change.”

 

Prof Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Reading, said:

“The State of the UK Climate report provides an important annual update of the climate in Britain. It shows a number of continuing and concerning trends. As well as extreme hot temperatures, the stand-out weather events in 2019 were the many different types of floods that hit Britain, causing millions of pounds worth of damage and causing misery to many people.

“The picture that emerges from 2019 is of the multiple flooding threats that are facing the UK, many of which are exacerbated by climate change. Summer flash floods caused by extreme downpours, extensive autumn and winter river floods caused by persistent heavy rain and storms, and a backdrop of continued sea-level rise heightening risk of coastal floods all show how flooding hazards are increasingly making their presence felt in our lives.

“The UK government’s recent package of support to mitigate flooding risks is welcome. But this report also reminds us of the complexity of the climate in Britain. Our understanding of this picture, and our ability to plan ways to protect ourselves, only comes from sustained investment in fundamental science and global research collaboration. The government must remember this as it negotiates a series of new relationships with international organisations from 2021, or Britain could lose its position as a world-leader in weather and climate science.”

 

Prof Ilan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health at University College London, said:

“The report highlights one of the biggest concerns of climate change impacting health: heat. These UK high temperature records show that, if we do nothing about stopping climate change, then we are unfortunately on track for summer heat (and humidity) which would be highly dangerous for us to be outdoors – and to be indoors without continual cooling. To retrofit all our infrastructure with indoor cooling is expensive, so this report shows the pathway we are on for excessive costs due to climate change.”

 

Dr Michael Byrne, Lecturer in Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews, said:

“It is no surprise that 2019 brought the UK’s hottest-ever day. With climate continuing to warm, this new record is unlikely to last long. 2019 also delivered 12% more rain than average. More rain is an inevitable consequence of climate change in the UK, where warmer temperatures and wetter weather go hand in hand.”

 

Prof Ed Hawkins, Professor of Climate Change, National Centre for Atmospheric Science, University of Reading, said:

“A notable aspect of this year’s State of the UK Climate is the contribution of thousands of citizen scientist volunteers. During the COVID lockdown in March this year more than 16,000 volunteers participated in the Rainfall Rescue project to transcribe millions of hand-written rainfall observations which had been taken between 1800 and 1960. These ‘rescued’ observations were previously unavailable for the Met Office to use in their reconstructions of past UK climate but are now helping to unlock more detail about unusual weather of the Victorian era and even earlier. Rescued data from an extra 95 locations have been included in this year’s State of the UK Climate but data from several thousand locations will be available for future updates and may allow the detailed rainfall reconstructions to push several decades further back into the past than is currently possible.”

 

 

‘State of the UK Climate 2019’ was published in the International Journal of Climatology at 00.01 UK TIME on Friday 31 July 2020.

DOI: 10.1002/joc.6726

 

Declared interests

Prof Cloke advises the Environment Agency and the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts on flood risk, flood forecasting and early warning. She works with local flood groups and advises local and national government and humanitarian agencies on flood emergencies. Her flood research is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Prof Reay: No interests declared

No others received

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