Climate change: Summers could be 5.4°C hotter by 2070

The Met Office warns of significant temperature rises in the coming decades in its ‘most comprehensive picture yet’

By Priyanka Shrestha
Picure of a sandcastle on a beach with two union jack flags on top.

Summers in the UK could be up to 5.4°C warmer by 2070, according to new data published by the Met Office.

It warns of significant temperature rises in the coming decades in its “most comprehensive picture yet” of how climate could change over the next century.

The UK Climate Projections 2018 (UKCP18) – the first major update in nearly a decade – illustrate a range of future climate scenarios until 2100, which also shows extreme weather and rising sea levels, suggesting “urgent” international action.

The report states winters could also be up to 4.2°C warmer, the chance of a summer as hot as 2018 is around 50% by 2050 and sea levels in London could rise by up to 1.15 metres by 2100.

It adds average summer rainfall could decrease by up to 47% by 2070 while there could be up to 35% more precipitation in winter.

Sea levels are projected to increase over the 21st century and beyond under all emission scenarios, which means the UK could see a rise in both the frequency and magnitude of extreme water levels around the coastline.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the UKCP18 can be used a tool to guide decision-making and boost resilience – through increasing flood defences, designing new infrastructure or adjusting ways of farming for drier summers.

He added: “This cutting-edge science opens our eyes to the extent of the challenge we face and shows us a future we want to avoid.

“The UK is already a global leader in tackling climate change, cutting emissions by more than 40% since 1990 – but we must go further. By having this detailed picture of our changing climate, we can ensure we have the right infrastructure to cope with weather extremes, homes and businesses can adapt and we can make decisions for the future accordingly.”

Today’s announcement comes as the UK marks the 10th anniversary of its Climate Change Act.

Additional Information

UKCP18 is a climate analysis tool that forms part of the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme, which is supported by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The climate is changing. Even given strenuous efforts to limit the cause of global warming, further climatic changes are inevitable in the future. The UK needs to manage the growing risks from climate change. In order to adapt and build resilience, up-to-date information on climate change is needed to inform decision-making.

UKCP18 is the fourth generation of national climate projections for the United Kingdom and will provide users with the most recent scientific evidence on projected climate changes with which to plan for the future. It is therefore a cornerstone principle of resilience preparation that we plan for a wide range of possible future changes, in parallel with taking actions to reduce the likelihood of the worst scenario becoming reality.

So, while the UK continues to play a leading role in international efforts to keep the global temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5°C (by reducing emissions, supporting the developing world to do the same and contributing to global diplomatic and scientific efforts), the adaptation plans should include preparation for worse climate change scenarios.

  • The information provided by UKCP18 will equip government, business and other interested parties to assess the challenges and opportunities we face from our changing climate.
  • The projections are based on the latest developments in climate science and were subject to an independent peer review, from the commencement of the project, to assess the science and methods that underpin UKCP18.
  • Building on the learning from UKCP09, user groups for government and wider society, along with the peer review panel, have helped to shape UKCP18, co-designing tools and capabilities to better meet user needs. For example, (i) changing the format of the data that is provided to the widely-used Ordnance Survey’s coordinate system, (ii) an enhanced user interface that uses the latest web design and (iii) providing datasets that represent UK climate in scenarios of2°C and 4°C of global warming.
  • Like UKCP09, UKCP18 includes estimates of the range of probable outcomes of future climate. UKCP18 uses newer climate models, additional observations and more recent views of how emissions may change in the future. These improvements increase our confidence in the ranges of future climate over the UK.
  • UKCP18 adds tools and capabilities, providing new insight compared to the previous projections, thus enhancing capacity for analysing climate risks. For example, UKCP18 includes projections for the globe, enabling projected climate changes on the UK to be examined in a global context.
  • Climate science is continually advancing. In 2019, additional projections will be provided, to complement those launched in November 2018, at finer spatial scales comparable to those used for weather forecasting. This high resolution data will provide information on events such as localised heavy summer rainfall, which can result in flash floods and surface water floods.
  • Like UKCP09, products and services will continue to be developed following the launch. A UKCP18 helpdesk will be available for users to raise queries and provide comment. Feedback will be used to continually evolve and improve products and services to better suit user needs.

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