Met Office weather forecasts show a bleak week ahead for much of the UK, with dominant showers and general cloud cover. The latest spell of miserable weather follows the warmest days of 2020, as people boiled under scorching highs of 34C, nearing the all-time maximum for June. The agency has now revealed the chances temperatures could spike further still, towards unprecedented highs of 40C.
A new study revealed today by the Met Office Hadley Centre found an increased likelihood of 40C days within the coming years.
The study, published in scientific journal Nature, found chances of extreme temperatures would increase “significantly” by the end of the century.
Parts of the UK might see 40C days every three to four years on average under a “high emissions” scenario, it added.
Should the world manage to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate agreement, the probability would become “considerably” lower.
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Rather than the three to four-year scenario, a medium-emissions world would see 40C summers roughly every 15 years.
Summers with daily maximum temperatures of 35C currently happen once every five years but may do so as much as every other year by 2100.
Dr Nikolaos Christidis, lead author of the study, revealed where the most extreme temperatures would emerge, and how quickly the probability is increasing.
He said: “We found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century, with the most extreme temperatures expected to be observed in the south-east of England.”
“Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK.
“The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence.
“The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing, and, without curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, such extremes could be taking place every few years in the climate of 2100.”
The extreme temperatures would be “highly unlikely” under a “natural” climate, study co-author Dr Mark McCarthy added.
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Dr McCarthy, who is also head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, said the temperatures of the hottest days of the year increase roughly every decade.
He said: “This research shows human-caused climate change has set us on a course to see temperature extremes in the UK that would be highly unlikely under a ‘natural’ climate, although urgent action to reduce emissions now can significantly reduce the occurrence of extreme high temperatures in the UK in the future.
“Analysis shows that in some parts of the south-east between 1960 and 2019 the hottest days of the year have already increased by 1°C each decade, showing the UK is already on a warming trend when it comes to heat extremes.”
The Met Office said the latest research would prove vital when it comes to planning for future extremes.
Information taken from the study could aid in mitigating the effects of the extreme temperatures in the UK, they added.
Temperature records in England have broken frequently over the last 10 years, with the new maximum of 38.7C set in Cambridge last year.
The highest temperatures in Scotland and Wales are slightly lower, with temperature records set decades ago.
In Wales, officials recorded 35.2C in August 1990, and Scotland recorded 32.9C in 2003.
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