A new Met Office report says the UK has experienced more weather extremes over the last 10 years when compared to previous decades.
The hottest days have become hotter, warm spells have increased, while the coldest days are not as cold.
The number of tropical nights when temperatures stay above 20C is increasing.
The Met Office says these changes are consistent with warming driven by human activities.
The new study compares UK weather data from the period between 1961-1990 with the 10 years between 2008 and 2017.
The study finds that on average the hottest day in each year over the recent 10-year period is 0.8C warmer than it was when compared to the earlier decades.
The coldest days and nights have also become warmer, with temperatures on average 1.7C milder in recent years.
To illustrate just how mild temperatures have been over between 2008-17, the report says that a significant area inland from the UK coast had, on average, less than one day per year with temperatures below zero.
One intriguing finding has been about what are termed tropical nights, when the mercury stays above 20C.
In the 30 years between 1961 and 1990 there were just eight nights that exceeded that mark. In the ten years between 2008 and 2017, there were four such nights. In 2018, which is not covered in the study, there were two warm nights that went above 20C.
The Met Office expects to see more tropical nights as our climate continues to warm. These can be a big concern for elderly people.
“It’s a particular concern, for the health impacts of heat waves are these tropical nights where the human body doesn’t get respite from the heat,” said Dr Mark McCarthy from the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre.
“That is particularly so in large cities where it is further exacerbated by the urban heat island effect where the city will retain more of the heat of the day.
“Of those places where we do see tropical nights most frequently, London is one of those areas where it does occur. It could become a very important index in future.”
Key highlights from the report
|1961-1990 average||2008-2017 average|
|Highest maximum temperatures||26.0C||26.8C|
|Summer days when temperatures above 25C||4.5||5.3|
|Lowest minimum temperature||-8.5||-6.8|
|Rainfall from extremely wet days||64mm||75mm|
Another important measure of change that is highlighted in the study are the number of warm spells that have been recorded. This is the number of days per year that go well beyond the average long-term temperature for that 24-hour period.
The study says that between 1961-1990 there were on average 5.3 days per year that went well beyond the average. In the 10 years to 2017, there were 13.2 days on average every year.
Rainfall has also increased over the period of the report. The maximum five-day precipitation between 1916-1990 was 77.8mm – between 2008 and 2017, it averaged 81.4mm.
So what’s been driving all this change? Met Office scientists say that natural variability may be impacting the rainfall situation across the UK – but when it comes to temperatures, the researchers say it is warming driven by humans.
“The temperature indicators are all consistent with the warming of the UK climate that we have observed over the last 50 years or so,” said Dr McCarthy.
“Certainly for the temperature-based indices such as the warm spell duration and the cold and high temperature indices, they are consistent with that well known warming, and for the UK it’s about the same rate of warming as has been seen globally.”