Climate change is making British cities hotter than they were in the 20th century

  29 April 2019    Read: 1185
  Climate change is   making British cities hotter   than they were in the 20th century

A Reading University climate scientist analysed temperature records from five of Britain's longest-operating weather stations, including those in Oxford, Sheffield and Durham.

Rising temperatures are hitting Britain and some cities are now far warmer than they were in the 20th century, reveals a study of historical weather records across the UK.

As a result, many parts of the UK have already exceeded the 2.9°F (1.6°C) target cap for temperature increases laid out in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

The cities of Oxford, Sheffield and Durham were among those whose past weather observations were analysed as part of the research.

The study was conducted by University of Reading climatologist Ed Hawkins, who has been leading a citizen-powered effort to digitise archived weather records.

Oxford, Sheffield and Durham have seen annual temperatures rise by up to 2.9°F (1.6°C) above their 20th century averages, Professor Hawkins found. 

Oxford's average temperature in 2018 was around 2.7°F (1.5°C) higher than the city's average over the 20th century.

The same rise in average temperatures could be seen in Durham in the previous year.

'It’s a long-term trend and takes off from the 1980s. In 2018 UK temperatures were about 1.6°C above the average for the [20th] century.'

'The amount of greenhouse gases entering the air has risen inexorably and is still rising,' he said. 'Temperatures will keep rising too.'

The rising temperatures found in this study are well above the average global temperature increase of 1.8°F (1°C) since the start of the industrial revolution, back in 1760 — and also higher than the temperature targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Much of the historical weather record, which dates back as far as 1859, has been difficult for modern climate scientists and meteorologists to access and study because it has not yet been digitised.

Professor Hawkins has been leading a citizen science project, Weather Rescue, that has been entering considerable volumes of 'lost' weather observations into a computer database that scientists around the globe can easily access.

In his recent work, Professor Hawkins analysed temperature records taken by five of Britain's longest-operating weather stations, which are based in Oxford, Sheffield, Durham, Armagh and Stornoway. 

'Through the 20th century you see more frequent warm years in these towns,' Professor Hawkins told The Times.

The above-average temperature increases detected by Professor Hawkins are due, in part, to the UK's physical location near Europe as well as its latitude.

The further a country lies from the equator, the greater the temperature increases that it experienced.

In January, councillors in Oxford unanimously voted to declare that the city was facing a climate emergency, alongside opposing the development of an expressway to connect Oxford with Cambridge.

'We need to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030,' Green Party group leader Craig Simmons, who proposed the motion to declare the state of emergency, told the Oxford Mail.

'We have a duty to ourselves, our residents, businesses and to the wider world to not only declare a climate emergency but to deliver real change,' he added. 

Oxford councillor Tom Landell Mills, of the Liberal Democrats, told the Times that the effects of the warming climate are becoming evident.

'In Oxford daffodils are flowering several weeks earlier and we are seeing little egrets — a small heron that never used to fly north of France,' he said.

Although the weather stations in the study record urban temperatures, Professor Hawkins says that rising temperatures are affecting entire regions.

Britain's temperature logs are long-established and predate most other records from across the globe.

In Oxford, for example, the Radcliffe Observatory began daily temperature readings in 1773. 

Professor Hawkins is presenting his research in a lecture to the Royal Society on April 30, 2019.

According to the Times, Professor Hawkins will also be putting forward a controversial opinion on the Scottish scientist James Watt — suggesting that Watt was the individual at the root of man-made climate change.

'Ever since he invented the modern steam engine, the amount of greenhouse gases entering the air has kept on rising,' Hawkins has said.


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