It was all fun and games at first. June was full of promise, Football was coming home and we looked ahead to long days galivanting in picturesque beer gardens with reckless abandon. By mid-July, our skin suitably bronzed, we could retreat to the cool confines of an air-conditioned room content with our fill of British summer.
But now, despite a brief reprieve at the mercy of the rain gods, we’re into our third month of scorching heat and beginning to question whether the Central Line at rush hour was actually the original inspiration for Dante’s Inferno. With temperatures reaching the mid-thirties and set to soar even higher over the next few weeks, it’s less of heatwave and more of heat-Tsunami tearing through the UK.
It’s not just the UK either, weather warnings are being issued across Europe with France dubbing today as ‘terrible Tuesday’, as temperatures continue to rise up to 40 degrees Celsius.
And just this morning, the Stockholm Resilience Centre seemed to worsen our deepest fears, stating that we’re headed towards a possible future dubbed ‘hothouse Earth’, whereby ‘Earth will become uninhabitable.’
Average global temperatures are currently 1 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels, with the Paris climate agreement stating that governments must keep total warming below 2 degrees Celsius. ‘In the context of the summer of 2018, this is definitely not a case of crying wolf, raising a false alarm: the wolves are now in sight,’ Dr. Phil Williamson, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia, told The Independent.
In our heat-induced delirium, we got to thinking what this new warmer weather means for the UK’s- and the rest of the world’s - climate. Will Summer 2018 be the new normal? Are we going to see hordes of sun-seekers flock to the British Riviera for their fix of summer sun? And is there anything we can do about it?
Firstly, is England actually getting hotter?
Yes, to put it simply. According to The Met Office’s ‘State of the UK Climate’ report, nine out of the ten warmest years recorded have occurred since 2002, and all ten have been since 1990.
‘Our climate is changing, globally and here in the UK,’ Dr Mark McCarthy, Manager of the National Climate Information Centre, states.
While you’ll remember 2017 was a decidedly cooler summer than the soaring temperatures of the 2018 heatwave, Mark explains last year’s recordings are evidence the UK is getting hotter. He adds, ‘when looking at the longer-term perspective, 2017 was still more than 1 oC warmer than our 1961-1990 baseline and ranks fifth warmest year overall for the UK.’
And these temperatures are on the rise. According to UK Climate Projections report on UK climate change, it’s thought the UKs average temperature will continue to increase until the 2080s.
And it’s not just in England where things are hotting up. Dr Robert Dunn, Senior Scientist at the Met Office Centre, explains we’re seeing a global ‘pattern of one warm year after the other.’ Scotland recently recorded its highest temperature (33.4C), Finland hit nearly 34C this year and in Tokyo temperatures exceeded 40C for the first time ever.
So, will British Summer’s always be this hot?
While the world is getting warmer, the soaring temperatures of summer 2018 may not be the ‘new normal’ in the UK. Not yet, anyway. The current conditions here in Great Britain are said to primarily be caused by a weakened jet stream getting stuck to the north of the UK, meaning a persistent high pressure is lingering over the UK and Europe.
‘The natural cycles of weather mean that we shouldn’t expect heatwaves like this to happen every year,’ The Met Office Chief Scientist, Professor Stephen Belcher, explains.
But the Met Office did add that if and when heatwaves do occur, global warming would increase the risk of ‘even higher temperatures.’
What can we do about the growing temperatures?
While Brits have been reaping the benefits of a long, hot summer for Kathryn Brown, Head of Adaptation at the Committee on Climate Change, global warming and an increased risk of heatwaves pose some very real threats for the UK in the years ahead.
‘We know that the risk of heatwaves and higher average temperatures is increasing as the climate changes,’ she explains.
The committee’s 2016 report suggests that the number of heat-related deaths could increase from 2,000 per year to 7,000 by the 2050s and more water shortages will sweep the UK.
With heatwaves likely to occur with greater frequency, we need to get adapt to the hotter temperatures. ‘Action is needed,’ explains Kathryn. ‘New build properties need shading and improved ventilation, as do hospitals. And we need to reverse the decline in urban green spaces.’
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