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UK has turned hotter, wetter and sunnier due to climate change

Representational image of climate change

Britain is already undergoing disruptive climate change with higher levels of rainfall, rising temperatures and more sunshine than it has ever experienced in the past, according to the latest UK state of climate report released on Wednesday. 

The report's lead author Mike Kendon, climate information scientist at the UK Met Office, told BBC News: “A lot of people think climate change is in the future – but this proves the climate is already changing here in the UK.

“As it continues to warm we are going to see more and more extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods.”

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A summary of the report states:

·         The UK's climate is changing. Recent decades have been warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century.

·         Year 2020 was third warmest, fifth wettest and eight sunniest on record for the UK. No other year has fallen in the top-10 for all three variables for the UK.

Near-coast sea-surface temperature

·         2020 was the eighth warmest year for UK near-coastal sea-surface temperature (SST) in a series from 1870.

·         The most recent decade (2011–2020) has been on average 0.3°C warmer than the 1981–2010 average and 0.7°C warmer than 1961–1990.

·         Nine of the 10 warmest years for near-coast SST for the UK have occurred since 2002.


·         2020 was the UK's fifth wettest year in a series from 1862, with 116% of the 1981–2010 average and 122% of the 1961–1990 average rainfall.

·         Since 2009, the UK has had its wettest February, April, June, November, December on record in monthly series from 1862—that is, five of 12 months—as well as the wettest winter on record.

·         The most recent decade (2011–2020) has been on average 4% wetter than 1981–2010

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·         Any snow during 2020 mainly affected upland and northern areas, and there were no major widespread snow events.

·         2020 was one of the least snowy years on record.


·         2020 was the eighth sunniest year for the UK in a series from 1919, with 109% of the 1981–2010 average and 113% of 1961–1990 average sunshine hours.

·         Spring 2020 was the UK's sunniest spring on record, and also sunnier than most UK summers.

Sea-level rise

·         Mean sea level around the UK has risen by approximately 1.5 mm·year−1 on average from the start of the 20th century.

·          The rate of sea level rise has increased recently, exceeding 3 mm·year−1 for the period 1993–2019.

Significant weather

·         Severe and widespread flooding in February 2020, at least as severe as that of November 2019, was due to storms Ciara and Dennis, arriving only 1 week apart.

·         On 31st July, 37.8°C was recorded in Greater London making this the UK's third warmest day on record.

·         In early August, southern England experienced one of the most significant heatwaves of the last 60 years with a succession of days exceeding 34°C and ‘tropical’ nights exceeding 20°C.

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BBC News quoted Liz Bentley, head of the Royal Meteorological Society, as saying that even if governments could achieve the challenging outcome of limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C – which looks very unlikely – that would still lead to a 10% increase in the amount of water the air can hold.

“In the UK,” she said, “we are likely to see temperatures of 40C. As we get 1.5C warming, that’ll be something we see on a regular basis.

"People don’t realise that even a small temperature rise of 0.1 or 0.2 degrees overall can make a huge difference – especially in the frequency and intensity of extreme events.