A series of high temperature records were broken in the UK in 2019 as a consequence of the climate crisis, the Met Office has said.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in the UK was exceeded on 25 July in Cambridge, where the thermometer hit 38.7C (101F). The record for the hottest February day was also broken, with Kew Gardens in London recording 21.2C on the 26th.
The hottest December day is also likely to have been exceeded when 18.7C was recorded at Achfary in the Scottish Highlands on the 28th, but this is awaiting verification. The Highlands also recorded the highest minimum temperature ever recorded in February – of 13.9C at Achnagart.
Eight high temperature records were broken in the last decades, but only one for a low temperature. That was for the lowest maximum temperature for a March day, when Tredegar in Wales never got warmer than -4.7C on 1 March 2018 during the “beast from the east” weather event.
“It is notable how many of these extreme records have been set in the most recent decade and how many more of them are reflecting high rather than low-temperature extremes, a consequence of our warming climate,” said Mark McCarthy, the head of the Met Office’s national climate information centre.
The UK’s weather is particularly variable because of the competing influences of the Atlantic Ocean and continental Europe. This means that low temperature records can still be set even as the average temperature rises due to global heating.
Globally, 2019 is expected to be the second or third hottest year since 1850. It was the hottest ever in Australia, where huge wildfires are burning, and in Russia. The global average temperature for the last decade is also expected to be the highest recorded, according to the World Meteorological Organization.
In the UK, 2019 was the 11th hottest year recorded, but 11 hottest years have occurred since 2002.
The UK climate is warming, the Met Office said, but this does not mean every decade will be significantly warmer than the one preceding it. The 2010s were the second hottest and second wettest decade in 100 years, slightly behind the 2000s. This is partly the result of a cold year in 2010, but the Met Office said such years occur much less frequently now than in the past.
The coming year is a significant one for action to fight the climate emergency, with the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and many others urging nations to dramatically increase their pledges to cut carbon emissions. The UK government will host a key UN summit in Glasgow in November.
A recent comprehensive expert analysis concluded that the world was on a path to climate disaster, with three-quarters of the commitments countries made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement rated as “totally inadequate”. Nations agreed to limit global heating to 2C above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5C if possible. Each country made a voluntary pledge of climate action, but to date these would result in global temperatures rising by a disastrous 3-4C.