Heatwave another sign of changing climate

As large parts of the USA and the United Kingdom brace for searing temperatures today and into the weekend, scientists have warned the world’s changing climate is continuing to be felt.

A heat-health alert has been issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA on Wednesday for the end of the week and today is set to see temperatures peak in southern and central Britain.

Dr Friederike Otto, senior lecturer in climate science, at The Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, said the latest hot spell is indicative of the way in which the world’s climate was changing.

“Climate change is a real game changer when it comes to heatwaves, they have increased in frequency, intensity & duration across the world because of our burning of fossil fuels,” he explained. “Trends in heat extremes are particularly strong in Europe though, where many studies have shown that they have increased in frequency by a factor of 100 or more due to human-caused climate change.”

Kirsty McCabe at the Royal Meteorological Society added the figures painted an increasingly concerning picture.

“The last time we saw temperatures over 32C was on 20th July 2021 when we recorded 32.2C at Heathrow.

“The last time we saw temperatures of 33C or over was back on 12th August 2020.

“We didn’t see temperatures above 33C at all last year the highest temperature was the 32.2C recorded at Heathrow on 20th July last year.

“33C or higher in June is rather exceptional, especially this early in the month. The most recent 33C in June was Heathrow reaching 33.4C on 25th June 2020.

“We did reach 33C in June in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, but all of them were after the 20th. 33C has only been recorded before the 20th on a handful of occasions.”

She added: “Should we get to 34C, the last time 34C was reached in June was 2019 when Heathrow and Northolt both reached 34.0C on 29th June. In 2017, 34.5C was reached at Heathrow on 21st June.

“During the 1976 heatwave, 34C or more was recorded at multiple sites on 3 consecutive days but since then it has only happened twice.

“Historically, 34C has only been seen before 20th June once, on 3rd June 1947.

“Maxima of 33C or more in June have occurred on less than 1% of June days since 1961 with 34C or more registered just 5 times in June since 1961, mainly in the exceptional heat of late June 1976.”

Head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, Dr Mark McCarthy warned the trends were pointing to a rapidly changing climate for the UK and northern Europe.

“Climate change has increased the average temperature of UK summers, and it is also increasing the likelihood of experiencing more extreme temperatures during hot spells and heatwaves,” he added. “Reaching 34C during June is a rare, but not unprecedented, event in the historical climate records for the UK.  But if it should happen this week, it would be notable that it would have occurred on three days during the last six Junes.  The other days being 21 June 2017 and 29 June 2019.

“Before that the only June exceedances, when England saw a number of stations reach 34C or higher, were 3 June 1947, 29 June 1957, and 26-28 June 1976: a notoriously hot summer.”

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