Is this winter's mild weather linked to climate change?

·Contributor
·3-min read
People walk along the sea front on Bournemouth beach in Dorset. The UK could see the mildest New Year's Eve on record, with sunshine in some areas, after what is likely to be one of the dullest Decembers ever. But despite the sun, revellers in some parts of the UK will have to brace for heavy showers in the evening. Picture date: Friday December 31, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
People walk along the seafront on Bournemouth beach in Dorset on December 31 (Getty)

The last weeks have seen unusually mild winter weather - and record-breaking temperatures - but is the warm spell linked to climate change?

Experts have said that it’s likely that climate change is making the warm spell more intense than it otherwise would have been.

The Met Office has said New Year’s Eve 2021 was provisionally the warmest on record with the temperature at Bala, in Wales, reaching 16.5C.

The Met Office said, “This makes New Year’s Eve 2021 provisionally the warmest on record.

Forecaster Craig Snell said: “It has been a prolonged mild spell.”

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Mr Snell added that the average temperature in December and the beginning of January is usually around 7C or 8C, and this year’s warmer temperatures have been due to a south-westerly wind making its way across the country.

Two surfers walk out of the sea off of Bournemouth beach in Dorset. The UK could see the mildest New Year's Eve on record, with sunshine in some areas, after what is likely to be one of the dullest Decembers ever. But despite the sun, revellers in some parts of the UK will have to brace for heavy showers in the evening. Picture date: Friday December 31, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two surfers walk out of the sea off of Bournemouth beach in Dorset on December 31 (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)

Snell said “plenty of places” have seen highs of 15C over December.

The warm temperatures were due to a ‘plume’ of warm air coming from the Azores.

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Michael Dukes, the director of forecasting at MetDesk, told the Independent: “This subtropical air came in on south to south-westerly winds across the UK. As the air mass came from so far south, temperatures were well above normal for the time of year with date records broken on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.”

Dukes says that climate change means that such warm spells are warmer than they would have been.

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He said that it means, “We are just a touch warmer than we used to be in similar weather set-ups. So if this weather pattern had occurred in the 1980s, say, temperatures would still have been way above normal, but probably half a degree lower than they were on this occasion.”

Met Office experts believe that the warmer temperatures are linked to climate change - and will go on getting more intense.

Neil Armstrong, Met Office chief meteorologist told The Guardian, “These warm spells in winter are consistent with what we would expect with climate change, and while cold snaps cannot be ruled out, we would expect above-average temperatures like this to become a more frequent occurrence as the global climate warms.”

Last year’s UN climate change report warned that extreme weather events like heatwaves and droughts which previously would have happened every 50 years could soon happen every four.

The report was the first to quantify the likelihood of extreme events across a wide variety of scenarios.

The researchers also warned that other ‘tipping point’ events are a possibility.

The researchers wrote, “Abrupt responses and tipping points of the climate system, such as strongly increased Antarctic ice sheet melt and forest dieback, cannot be ruled out”.

Dr. Robert Rohde, Lead Scientist of Berkeley Earth said, “What were once-in-50-year heat extremes are now occurring every 10 years.

“By a rise of two degrees celsius, those same extremes will occur every 3.5 years.”

The report found that (for example) once-in-a-decade heavy rain events are already 1.3 times more likely and 6.7% wetter, compared with the 50 years leading up to 1900 when human-driven warning began to occur.

Droughts that previously happened once a decade now happen every five or six years.

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