Mar 2, 2019

UK weather: February temperature jump was incredible, says climate expert

United Kingdom
by
Jonathan Watts
,
The Guardian
The M876 motorway in Scotland on 31 January last year, during the Beast from the East, and in February this year. Photo: Andrew Milligan, PA
The M876 motorway in Scotland on 31 January last year, during the Beast from the East, and in February this year. Photo: Andrew Milligan, PA

This week’s record winter heat in the UK was so far above normal trends that scientists have been forced to reconsider their statistical models, with one expert calling the temperature jump “incredible”.

UK temperature records have tumbled in the past 10 days. Last Thursday, Scotland experienced its highest winter warmth of 18.3C in Aboyne, in Aberdeenshire. On Tuesday, Wales set a new UK high for the season for 20.8 in Porthmadog. This was beaten on Wednesday, when Kew registered 21.2C.

Even taking into account the underlying 1C of global heating from carbon emissions this was a surprise to some scientists. Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate researcher at Royal Netherlands Meteorolgical Institute who has conducted a preliminary study of the trend data from Reading and central England, said the probability of this week’s temperatures was close to zero.

“This is an incredible jump in record temperatures. If you asked me a few months ago, I would have said it is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s at least a one-in 200-year event, but it could be more because my statistical tools break down because this was so far outside what we are used to in February.”

According to the Met Office, the mean maximum temperature in February was at up to 3.5C above the average between 1981 and 2010. This was due to large areas of high pressure over continental Europe that brought warm air from the Canaries and north Africa.

Government meteorologists are now studying exactly how much of this unusual heat can be attributed to man-made climate change.