Met Office’s 2023 climate report suggests 40C summers to be the norm by 2060
The heatwave of 2022 could be a ‘cool year’ by the end of the century – the Met Office is warning.
Despite last year’s weather breaking all records, climate change experts claim in just a few decades 40C summers could be nothing but the norm.
If carbon emissions by 2060 continue at predicted rates a dry, sunny and sweltering summer like that seen in 2022 will be nothing more than an ‘average year’.
By 2100 it would be cooler than average suggest the predictions.
The findings have been released in this year’s State of the Climate report researched and published by the Met Office.
The report highlights how the UK’s climate continues to change, with recent decades warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century.
A key feature of 2022, says the report, was ‘persistent warmth throughout the year’. All months of the year except December were warmer than the 1991-2020 average say researchers.
The period January to August was the driest across England and Wales since 1976, resulting in water restrictions which have already returned to some areas this year. Parts of the south, adds the report, were dry for the whole of July.
Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive at the Royal Meteorological Society, acknowledged that the release of this year’s research coincides with weather in other parts of the world once again breaking records.
She said: “This report is the authoritative annual summary of the UK climate. It not only helps to highlight the latest knowledge on our changing climate but also enables us to understand the trends, risks and impacts to help inform how we will need to adapt, now and in the future.
“2022 was certainly a record-breaking year for the UK and is another example that extreme heat events are becoming more frequent, intense and prolonged because of human-induced climate change – something we are seeing being played out across Europe as the report is being published.”
The impact on the UK’s flora and fauna is also a growing concern for climate change experts. Not least because the behaviour of some plants and animal species can impact human life – for example in the growing of crops.
With mild winters triggering early springs – animals and plants too are changing their behaviour notes the report, with birds singing earlier and plants flowering prematurely.
Last year’s heatwave is also suspected to have hit hard butterfly populations because of a lack of food for caterpillars in 2022 as plants withered in the sun.
Phenologist Fritha West, of the Woodland Trust, said: “Our data show that the seasons are changing and iconic species, from birds and bumblebees to flowers and trees, are forced to alter their patterns – they are the silent witnesses of climate change.
“Much loved plants and animals, such as oak trees and ladybirds, are impacted by the shifting seasons and extreme weather events. Species will react in different ways, and these reactions will impact human life in different ways, but the speed of these changes could cause concern."