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June was the hottest on record for the UK, and the worst is yet to come

A new announcement from the UK’s Met Office reveals that June 2023 has officially taken the title as the hottest ever recorded. 

The news underscores the growing concern around climate change and persistent heatwaves, with scientists cautioning that the worst effects are likely still ahead of us.

Small temperature increase, big implications 

The average temperature for June clocked in at 15.8C (60.4F), surpassing the prior records set in 1940 and 1976 by an additional 0.9C. Despite the seemingly small margin, this incremental increase bears significant implications. 

Paul Davies, the Met Office’s chief meteorologist and climate extremes principal fellow, told BBC News: “An increase of 0.9C may not seem a huge amount, but it’s really significant because it has taken the average daytime and the night time temperature for the whole of the UK.”

Davies emphasized that this pervasive heat, sustained both during the day and throughout the night, is especially noteworthy in the context of a warming climate. He explained that the elevated temperatures have consequential impacts on society, implications that extend far beyond the confines of scientific observation.

Record heat, less rainfall

Across the UK, new records were established in 72 of the 97 areas where temperature data is collected. Mark McCarthy, the Met Office’s Climate Science Manager, confirmed, “It’s officially the hottest June on record for the UK, for mean temperature as well as average maximum and minimum temperature.”

In the west, temperatures were consistently higher than in the east, where increased cloud cover provided some mitigation of the daytime heat. June also saw a deficiency in rainfall, with only 68% of the average precipitation for the month. Wales, in particular, experienced a dearth of rain, with a total that barely exceeded half of its average monthly rainfall.

Fingerprints of climate change 

This data, collected and analyzed by a supercomputer, has enabled scientists to trace the fingerprints of climate change on the weather. 

“We found that the chance of observing a June beating the previous joint 1940/1976 record of 14.9°C has at least doubled since the 1940s,” Davies explained. He asserted that alongside natural variability, human-induced climate change has significantly amplified the likelihood of such record-breaking temperatures.

The warm weather aligns with current predictions for a changing climate in the UK. Dr. Richard Hodgkins, senior lecturer in physical geography at University of Loughborough, notes that the patterns are consistent with the expectation of longer, more intense heatwaves, due to weather patterns that appear to get “stuck. ” 

Dr. Hodgkins described the June heatwave as being “somewhat like a typical weather event for the UK, but stretched out in time much longer than normal.”

Severe repercussions 

The impacts of this unseasonal heat extend beyond human discomfort, with severe repercussions for local wildlife and ecosystems. 

Environment groups have sounded the alarm on the harm inflicted upon fish populations, with the warm weather causing water temperatures to rise, and flowering plants wilting under the persistent heat. Wildlife Trusts lamented that nature is being “pounded by extreme weather without a chance to recover.”

This heated June comes on the heels of last year’s unprecedented event, where the UK saw temperatures above 40C for the first time. Scientists claimed such a high would have been “virtually impossible without climate change.”

All this serves as a reminder of the larger, long-term transformations taking place as a result of human-induced climate change. 

The world has seen an increase in temperature of about 1.1C since the advent of the industrial revolution approximately 200 years ago, with greenhouse gases from activities such as fuel burning heating the Earth’s atmosphere. This latest data from the UK is yet another manifestation of this global phenomenon, underscoring the urgent need for concerted action on climate change.


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