March 2, 2024

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The UK marks its second-warmest year; climate change calls for urgent action

Provisional data from the Met Office reveals that 2023 ranks as the UK’s second-warmest year, closely trailing behind the record-breaking 2022 by a mere 0.06°C. Notably, both Wales and Northern Ireland experienced their hottest years on record, accentuating the impact of climate change on regional temperatures.

Met Office Senior Scientist Mike Kendon emphasised the unequivocal influence of climate change on long-term temperature records in the UK. Despite the inherent climate variability, Kendon highlighted a consistent trend of shattered high-temperature records over recent decades.

The UK’s summer in 2023 showcased extremes, bookended by the hottest June and a jointly hottest September in recorded history, where temperatures soared above 33°C. The historical temperature records held by the Central England Temperature Series, dating back to 1659, position the UK as a climate monitoring pioneer.

Despite consecutive years of record warmth, the UK government faced a stark warning in July about its unpreparedness for climate change’s impact, leading to increased mortality rates and operational disruptions.

Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr, criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s climate change actions, highlighting concerns about oil and gas drilling expansion and delayed emissions reduction policies.

The government, however, reaffirmed its commitment to addressing climate change without imposing undue burdens on families.

Average rainfall in 2023 increased by 11% across the UK, with England and Northern Ireland experiencing an even more significant surge of over 20%. Scientists predict a climate shift towards hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters due to climate change, attributed to the air’s enhanced moisture-holding capacity.

The record temperatures observed in the UK echoed global climate trends, manifesting in wildfires, high sea temperatures, and extreme weather events worldwide. In January, the Copernicus Climate Change Service is expected to confirm 2023 as the hottest year globally, driven by climate change and the El Niño phenomenon.

The El Niño event, which weakens winds in the eastern Pacific, is anticipated to persist into the first half of 2024. This trend further raises concerns about surpassing the crucial 1.5°C warming milestone, symbolising a pivotal goal in global climate change negotiations established under the 2015 Paris Agreement.