Wet June comes to a hot conclusion

With a warm end to the month and notable rainfall, you may be forgiven for thinking that June 2019 would automatically be a record-breaking month. In reality, the month as a whole might not beat previous Junes for heat or overall rainfall, but it will be remembered for some extreme weather events.

Notably, Lincolnshire received 230% of the rainfall expected in June, compared with the average between 1981-2010. Wainfleet in Lincolnshire recorded the highest daily rainfall total of any UK station with 74.6 mm of rain on 10 June.

Across Lincolnshire, the rainfall wasn’t sufficient to break the June county rainfall record of 181.9 mm in 2007, but with 128.9 mm it was in fourth place in a series stretching back to 1910. New records were set for two-day and three-day total rainfall in Lincolnshire on 10-11 and 10-12 June respectively; both previous records were set in July 1968.

Flintshire in North Wales was the wettest county when compared with average; and here it was the second wettest June since 1910. The rainfall was largely due to the presence of persistent areas of low pressure which had become anchored over parts of the UK, sitting in the loop created by the buckling of the jet stream – known to meteorologists as an Omega block.

June Rainfall map

When reviewing temperatures, June 2019 was a remarkably average month. The mean temperature for the UK was only 0.2 °C above the long-term average. One of the regions to deviate the most from this was East Anglia, with both Norfolk and Suffolk average temperatures being 1.1 °C above the long-term average: 14.5 and 14.7 °C, respectively.

Much of the month had been notably cooler than average, but towards the end of the month an area of significantly warm air moved northwards across Europe bringing record breaking temperatures to France, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Although temperatures were not record breaking in the UK, several days of high temperatures were recorded across the country with some individual locations reaching heatwave thresholds. The window of heat shifted from west to east culminating in the highest maximum temperature of 34.0 °C at Heathrow and Northolt on 29 June. By contrast, the lowest minimum temperature was -0.3 °C at Redesdale Camp in Northumberland on 10 June.

There was also lower than average sunshine hours for many parts of the UK, with only Scotland and Northern Ireland receiving more than the long-term 1981-2010 average. The sunniest location was the Isle of Man with 236.5 hours of sunshine.

Provisional June 2019 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 13.2 0.2 160.8 95 111.5 152
England 14.3 0.2 165.0 90 109.4 177
Wales 13.3 0.1 143.3 83 159.0 185
Scotland 11.6 0.3 158.8 106 102.6 115
N Ireland 12.6 -0.1 156.5 104 112.7 148

 

 

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Preparing for when the sun wakes up

Written by Mark Gibbs, Head of Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre and Dr Mario Bisi, Space Weather Scientist, STFC RAL Space

Experts from across the globe are in the UK this week discussing plans for a new European space mission aimed at improving our space weather forecasting capability.

Discussions will focus on plans to replace the spacecraft at Langrage 1 (L1) and Lagrange 5 (L5) locations. These proposed new spacecrafts are critical if we are not only to maintain our forecast skill but also enhance our ability to forecast damaging space-weather events with newer instruments and a more secure data supply.

The ‘Preparing for when the sun wakes up’ workshop brings together the key scientific/technical experts, science advisors, governments and service providers necessary to ensure international preparedness for future space-weather forecasting capability.

This workshop, the 3rd hosted by the UK, has special significance as it will be the last ‘rallying call’ ahead of the European Space Agency (ESA) Council of Ministers meeting in December where ESA will be asking member states to provide the funding to begin building the L5 spacecraft ready for launch in 2026.

 

During the two-day event (27 & 28 June 2019) around 85 participants, predominantly from Europe and the USA, will examine the progress of the two ESA mission studies, the designs of the instruments that will fly into deep space and how these spacecraft support the global effort to mitigate the impacts of space weather.

Forecasters have already glimpsed the benefit that a L5 mission will give, from the NASA Solar TERestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission. The two STEREO spacecraft have spent the last decade slowly making a partial orbit of the Sun providing new viewpoints of it and of the intervening space between the Sun and the Earth.

The USA is planning a mission, complimentary to the European L5 mission, that will replace both the NASA SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and Deep Space Climate ObserVatoRy (DSCOVR) spacecraft at L1. Together these two missions would future proof the current assets and provide enhanced space weather forecasting capability.

Severe Space Weather is recognised as a medium-high risk on the UK Government’s National Risk Register. The impacts of an event similar to the Carrington event of 1859 (which is likely to occur on average once a century) could include localised power blackouts, loss of GPS signals (for navigation and accurate timing), and interruption to vital satellite services, which are critical for the day-to-day services that we rely on. These impacts occur as a result of billions of tonnes of magnetised plasma that is explosively released from the Sun, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME). CME’s can head in any direction but forecasters analyse the infrequent images from SOHO and STEREO to determine the speed, size, and crucially, whether the CME is Earth directed.

The two missions to the L5 and L1 points will provide a reliable real-time flow of images and information to space-weather forecasters around the globe, both replacing and improving on the images and data from SOHO and STEREO, both of which are operating many year’s beyond their design life.

The UK has led the initiative to launch an operational mission to L5, from the early concepts through to the current design studies funded by ESA. The UK, through the UK Space Agency is the largest funder of this ESA initiative. Of the four design studies underway, three are led by UK organisations Airbus, the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space and UCL-MSSL.

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Permanent Secretaries visit Met Office HQ

As part of their visit to the South West for Civil Service Live events this week, Met Office Chief Executive Penny Endersby was delighted to host Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Sir Mark Sedwill to our Exeter HQ along with a number of departmental Permanent Secretaries including Tamara Finkelstein (Defra), Matthew Rycroft (DFID) and Shona Dunn (Home Office).

During the visit they were shown how Met Office weather and climate science helps security and prosperity in the UK and around the world. This is especially achieved through working collaboratively not just with other departments and agencies, but also with the wider public sector, private sector and beyond.

CB5A0003

The wide-ranging work of the Met Office which supports government departments includes supporting flood risk management now and in the future, animal and plant health, UKCP18 and air quality with Defra. Further examples include helping DFID meet the challenges of climate change through in-country programmes and supporting humanitarian responses to severe weather. This wide spectrum of work was summed up by Sir Mark Sedwill who said:

“Thank you for making me and my colleagues feel so welcome during our visit, it was fascinating to see the work of the Met Office and I was really impressed with how you work across the Civil Service and the World, providing critical services to businesses and communities. Your work with other agencies and organisations across the public and private sector is an excellent example to us all in providing joined-up public services that have a positive impact on our citizens”

CB5A9926

 

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A cool and wet June so far after a warm start 

June 2019 got off to a false start – despite a warm first few days, the rest of the month so far has been much cooler and rather wet.

The UK has been stuck under an area of low pressure for most of the month so far, bringing a succession of slow-moving weather fronts and heavy rain.

For most days, the maximum temperature has been well below the UK June average of 17.3 Celsius, with the UK average maximum 15.5 C as of 13 June.  Temperatures across the UK were widely below average on 11 June in particular, with much of central Wales struggling to reach 10 C.

June max temp anomoly

At almost halfway through the month, England and Wales have already reached their average monthly rainfall totals for June, with 127% of the expected rainfall recorded in England and 120% in Wales.  The wettest June on record for the UK is 2012, where the country received more than double (203%) of average rainfall for the month.

Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th were particularly wet days, especially in the east and southeast England and northeast Wales, where some places recorded almost two month’s worth of rain in one day.

Flintshire in northeast Wales is the wettest region so far this month, receiving 140.5 mm (225%) of its average June rainfall.  This is followed closely by Lincolnshire, which recorded 111.2mm, or 198% of June average rainfall. .

The wettest place relative to average this month is Wainfleet (Skegness) recording nearly three times (287%) its normal June rainfall so far.

In Ham Hill, Kent, 94.6mm of rain fell within a 24-hour period – twice the June average of 47.6 mm for Kent.

The map below shows the rainfall so far this month as a percentage of the June average. The dark blue areas are those that have already received more than twice their normal June rainfall. In contrast Scotland has received just over half its normal June rainfall in the first half of the month so is much closer to what we might expect for this point in the month.

June rainfall

The Met Office issued a series of National Severe Weather Warnings for heavy rain and thunderstorms during this period, with amber rain warnings for London, southeast England and southeast Scotland. The Environment Agency issued numerous flood warnings and alerts, with significant flooding in Lincolnshire where over 100 properties were flooded and disruption to transport including railway lines.

Why the wet weather?

The unsettled weather and heavy rain is a result of an omega blocking pattern, with low pressure in the western Atlantic, high pressure in the mid-Atlantic and low pressure in the east Atlantic.  The UK has been stuck under this latter area of low pressure, allowing weather fronts to continually feed across the UK from the east.   Heavy showers and thunderstorms also developed in this set up, adding to the already high rainfall totals.

Not everywhere has been very wet however, as western parts of Northern Ireland and Scotland have been shielded from the worst of the heavy rain.

omega block june

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Science Camp in full swing for 2019

Met Office Science Camps have returned for their seventh year, with two camps having taken place earlier this year and two more to go.

Our Science Camps are a popular part of the Met Office STEM Outreach programme, giving 11-13 year old students the unique opportunity to camp overnight at one of the UK’s premier science and engineering organisations.

The camps typically run through spring and summer terms, with students taking part in demonstrations and activities to learn about weather and climate science, as well as finding out more about how the Met Office forecasts the weather and climate predictions.

This year saw the introduction of some new content, which was received well both by campers and volunteers.

Leader of Met Office Science Camp Core Team, Debbie O’Sullivan, said:

“Thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of all of our volunteers we have had a great start to Science Camp 2019. The students had a fantastic time and left a lot more inspired than when they arrived.”

Science Camp pics

And here’s some of our students thoughts from Science Camps earlier this year:

‘Thank you to all at the Met Office for putting on an Amazing, Brilliant, Educational, Exciting camp’

I adored it here, all the memories I have made are irreplaceable. I love the Met Office!’

I had an amazing time learning the process of how the weather is forecasted on a daily basis and how different part of the weather are formed. I now feel more inspired to go into something to do with the weather in the future.’

The Met Office camp was great, because it taught us about a wide range of techniques and skills that would be needed for numerous weather related jobs and issues. I learnt much here and I really enjoyed it!’

The positive feedback is down to the hard work of over one hundred Met Office staff who volunteer their time for Science Camp, demonstrating their passion for what we do at the Met Office and ensuring the camps are inspiring and enjoyable.

With a fantastic start to Science Camp 2019, we look forward to continuing the camps throughout the rest of this year.

Check out our website for more information on Science Camp at the Met Office.

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Unremarkable month brings Spring to a close

A very average month of May has brought Spring 2019 to a close, with temperatures, sunshine and rainfall all close to the long-term averages for the UK.

There have been regional differences though, with a clear split between north and south with varying amounts of rainfall when compared to the 1981-2010 long-term average. South-west England was comparatively dry, in sharp contrast to north-east Scotland. Moray received more than double its average monthly rainfall with 128.8 mm while further south-west Carmarthenshire only received 36% of its average with 33.6 mm of rainfall.

2019_5_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

The hours of sunshine have also been close to average across the UK, with the most sunshine in South West England and South Wales where there was 212 hours of sunshine.

2019_5_Sunshine_Anomaly_1981-2010

Mean temperatures across the UK were all close to the long-term average too, with all regions just under the average. The UK was 0.3 °C below average with a mean temperature of 10.0 °C.

2019_5_MeanTemp_Anomaly_1981-2010

Provisional May 2019 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 10.0 -0.3 188.5 101 64.8 93
England 11.0 -0.2 201.6 106 43.9 75
Wales 10.2 -0.4 200.3 107 46.9 55
Scotland 8.3 -0.5 168.5 95 105.5 125
N Ireland 9.9 -0.3 158.5 87 58.5 81

Looking at Spring as a whole there is a broadly similar distribution of conditions. Many regions received more than their average rainfall for the season, predominantly in the north and west. Once again, Moray was the wettest county when compared to the long-term average with 45% more than average, 272.2 mm in total. Other areas saw below-average rainfall, mostly in the south and east. Bedfordshire received 87.2 mm which is 62% of its average Spring rainfall total.

2019_13_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

Despite spells of warmer weather, including over the Easter weekend, temperatures ended up being only just above average across much of the UK. For the country as a whole Spring was 0.7°C above the long-term average. The mildest location compared to its average was the Isle of Wight which was 1°C above average.

2019_13_MeanTemp_Anomaly_1981-2010

It was a sunny Spring, all regions exceeded their average sunshine hours with the exception of Northern Ireland. East Anglia was the sunniest area with 537 hours of sunshine across March, April and May.

2019_13_Sunshine_Anomaly_1981-2010

Provisional Spring 2019 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 8.4 0.7 473.0 109 249.1 105
England 9.2 0.7 510.4 113 170.9 94
Wales 8.7 0.6 467.4 106 340.2 116
Scotland 7.0 0.7 429.9 106 346.2 109
N Ireland 8.4 0.5 372.3 87 295.7 122

You can keep up to date with the weather using our forecast pages and by following us on Twitter and Facebook, as well as using our new mobile app which is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from the Google Play store.

Please note that these provisional figures, especially for rainfall and sunshine, are subject to revision. Anomalies are expressed relative to the 1981-2010 averaging period.

 

 

 

 

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A day in the sun for Met Office Scientists at Royal Meteorological Society Awards

Scientists from across the Met Office have been recognised for their work at the Royal Meteorological Society Awards. In total 11 Met Office employees received awards at the ceremony held in London.

The award recipients were:

The L F Richardson Prize: Dr Kirsty Hanley, Met Office

The Adrian Gill Prize: Dr Michael J Bell, Met Office

The Innovation Award:      

Awarded to The Scottish Flood Forecasting Service, the team from the Met Office included:

Brian Golding, Clive Pierce, Nigel Roberts and Bruce Wright.

The Climate Science Communications Award: Professor Peter Stott, Met Office Hadley Centre

The Gordon Manley Weather Prize

Awarded to the ‘Global and regional climate series’ team, which included the following Met Office employees:

David Parker, John Kennedy, Colin Morice and Holly Titchner.

Dr Kirsty Hanley received the L F Richardson prize for a paper that she lead authored which compared observed statistics of convective clouds with models at km scales and higher resolution models down to a grid length of just 100m. This award recognises a meritorious paper which was published in a Society journal during the preceding four years and was contributed by a member of the Society who was in their early career in meteorology.

The Adrian Gill prize was awarded to Dr Michael Bell for playing a leading national and international role in the development of the new discipline of operational oceanography. Amongst other streams of work, Mike was the lead scientist in the development of the Met Office’s FOAM ocean forecasting system, one of the first systems of its kind. The prize is awarded annually to a member of the Society who has made a significant contribution in the preceding five years and who has also been an author of a paper in the Society’s journals.

@RMetS - Dr Bell

Dr Michael Bell receiving the Adrian Gill Prize. Photo: @RMetS

Four Met Office personnel that are part of the Scottish Flood Forecasting Service were recognised for their work on the ‘Surface Water Flood forecasting in Urban Communities’ project. They, along with their colleagues from SEPA, The James Hutton Institute, CEH Wallingford and CPAESS – UCAR, USA, received the Innovation Award which is based around innovation in meteorology, with a particular focus on business and/or public impact. It recognises people, projects or programmes within the academic, scientific or business communities who have made significant contributions to educating, informing or motivating organisations in their response to meteorological challenges.

Professor Peter Stott was awarded the Climate Science Communications Award for his work on the BBC programme ‘Climate Change: The Facts’. The programme featured Sir David Attenborough and as well as being interviewed for the programme Professor Stott assisted the BBC in their research. The Climate Science Communications Award is awarded annually in recognition of outstanding scientific contributions in the field of climate science and proactive outreach activities to communicate climate science. You can read more about Professor Stott’s career in his own words here.

@RMetS - Prof Stott

Professor Peter Stott receiving the Climate Science Communications award. Photo: @RMetS

The Society’s journal ‘Weather’ was first published in 1946 when Gordon Manley was President of the Society and the journal benefited from his encouragement. The Gordon Manley Prize is awarded annually for any outstanding contribution to Weather through furthering the public understanding of meteorology and oceanography. The Met Office Global and Regional Climate Series team received the prize and is made up of David Parker, John Kennedy, Colin Morice and Holly Titchner.

The full list of award recipients can be seen here: https://www.rmets.org/news/2018-society-awards-and-prize-winners-announced

More information on the background behind each award can be seen here: https://www.rmets.org/awards-and-prizes

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Changing climate = a changing view of the British & Irish garden

In late February 2019, an historic climate event occurred. A flow of very warm southerly air (in conjunction with an area of high pressure) resulted in the first recorded occurrence of temperatures in excess of 20 °C during a UK winter season, reaching 21.2 °C at Kew Gardens.

This week delegates of the PlantNetwork charity’s annual conference will be gathering at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens to discuss the issues posed by climate change and how these will affect the nation’s gardens and designed landscapes.

The February warm spell created several issues for gardeners:

  • many garden plants emerged rapidly from their dormancy (only to be damaged by the frosts in April);
  • lawns required their first and second cuts much earlier than normal;
  • many gardeners needed to water their gardens.

Janet Manning, Water Management Specialist at the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “Twitter was scattered with tweets from gardeners who felt the need to water their gardens for the first time ever in February,”

Taro from southern Asia is a plant which may do well in the UK's warming climate

Taro (Colocasia esculenta) – a tropical root vegetable from southern Asia – might become more widespread across southern Britain in future: it already grows well at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens cared for by curator Stephen Griffith (pictured).

Gardens have to endure drought, heavy rainfall and extremes of temperature. The types of plants grown in gardens and how gardens are designed and managed will need to change to take into account higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns. Key to all of this is translating the current climate projections to gardens around the country.

John Edmiston, of the nursery Tropical Britain, considers the types of plants we might be growing in a hotter, drier climate. He said: “Climate change will have a massive effect on British horticulture. Gardens will need to be more resilient to drought. The dominant style in British garden design has for many years focused on herbaceous perennials soaking up large quantities of water. As we move into a hotter drier future, many public gardens and garden designers will use more plants adapted to dry conditions, combining hardy desert species with drought-resistant perennials to create a new style. Fifty years from now, British gardens will look quite different.”

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre. He said: “The UK climate is warming, increasing the likelihood of events such as those seen in February and last summer’s heatwave. The latest set of UK climate projections (UKCP18) show that extreme hot summers like 2018 or 1976, could be more frequent by the 2050s, and that our winters are very likely to be milder and wetter.”

Invasive potential

Introducing plants into gardens from around the world is not risk free. New pests and diseases have the potential to spread into the UK on a variety of plant material and in soils, particularly as the UK climate becomes more amenable to their survival. Tomos Jones, a PhD student at the University of Reading, has studied the invasive potential of many ornamental plants. Tomos said: “Climate change could allow more ornamentals to become invasive, as conditions become more suitable. Gardeners have an important role to play in preventing plant invasions, in their choice of plants to grow and in disposing of potentially invasive plants responsibly. Gardeners are on the ‘front line’ in identifying plants in their gardens showing ‘invasive characteristics.”

There are design challenges too. Heritage gardens often use a narrower range of plants than we now have available, but a changing climate might mean that these gardens and landscapes will need to find plants better able to survive rather than being true to the period of the garden. Water and soil management are crucial factors in horticulture and are vital in a changing climate.

Everyone can make a difference. But those small changes can really add up to a significant impact. As Janet Manning, added: “If the 27 million gardeners in the UK could save just one watering can full of mains tap water this summer, we would have saved enough water to supply Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield for a whole day, that’s significant and achievable.”

Simon Toomer, PlantNetwork Chair, said: “Now is the time for horticulture – an industry worth £24bn to the UK economy – to step forward and be part of the solution:, planting a tree is still one of the quickest, simplest and cheapest ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere.”

  • PlantNetwork is a charity supporting gardens, arboreta and other plant collections through training, networking and information exchange between gardens. This year’s major topic at the annual conference is “Climate Change and Gardens”, professional gardeners from across Britain and Ireland will discuss how the sector can be better prepared for a changing climate.
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A varied April comes to a warm conclusion

April 2019 will be remembered for a combination of both cold and very warm conditions; the latest statistics show that the warmer spells boosted UK mean temperatures to provisionally 1°C above the long-term average when looking at the month as a whole.

After a cold, and in some places wet, start to the month, many will remember the exceptionally warm and sunny weather across the UK over the Easter weekend. A number of records were broken including it being the hottest Easter Monday on record in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Over the Easter weekend a total of 18 weather stations across the UK broke their April temperature records.

The Isle of Wight was the area with the highest average temperature, 10.2°C, with Middlesex, Cornwall and Anglesey closely following. The highest temperature recorded was 25.8°C at Treknow in Cornwall on 19th April. Scotland was also notably warm when compared to the long-term 1981-2010 average with mean temperatures 1.4°C higher for the month.

2019_4_MeanTemp_Anomaly_1981-2010

Map shows April 2019 mean temperature as a percentage of the 1981-2010 climatological average

Overall it was a relatively dry month with only Wales and Northern Ireland reaching average rainfall totals. England has seen particularly low levels of rainfall, especially in the east. East Anglia has received just 25% of its average monthly rainfall. The former county of Huntingdonshire was the driest county, with just 9.5mm of rain through the whole of April.

2019_4_Rainfall_Anomaly_1981-2010

Map shows April 2019 rainfall as a percentage of the 1981-2010 climatological average

As well as being a dry month, April was a particularly sunny month too. The UK saw 14% more sunshine hours than average with only Northern Ireland receiving below average sunshine with 87% of the long-term average. East Anglia was also the sunniest region with 191.2 hours of sunshine, 19% more than the long-term average.  

2019_4_Sunshine_Anomaly_1981-2010

Map shows April 2019 sunshine hours as a percentage of the 1981-2010 climatological average

 

Provisional April 2019 Mean temp (°C) Sunshine (hours) Rainfall (mm)
Actual  Diff from avg (°C) Actual % of avg Actual % of avg
UK 8.4 1.0 168.9 114 51.4 71
England 8.8 0.7 179.3 116 37.8 64
Wales 8.8 1.2 154.7 100 101.0 113
Scotland 7.5 1.4 162.9 121 55.6 61
N Ireland 8.5 0.9 127.2 87 78.5 105
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My career in climate

Sir David Attenborough looks at the science of and potential solutions to climate change in a new BBC Documentary (broadcast 9pm Thurs 18 April 2019). Met Office climate scientist Professor Peter Stott appears in the programme and also supported the BBC as they researched the facts.  Here he looks back at his career and how the science of climate change has developed.

When I arrived at the Met Office in 1996, it was an exciting time to be starting climate research. Scientists were beginning to identify the fingerprints of human activities on climate. I joined a team of researchers who showed that warming temperatures were being caused not by increasing solar activity or natural climate oscillations but by the rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. By the turn of the century, the conclusions of climate science were clear.  Substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would be needed to avoid the worst effects of a warming world. If this was not unexpected, being the inevitable result of basic physics, the new century brought a much more surprising revelation.

Whereas the large-scale climate trends panned out as climate models had predicted – with warming temperatures, melting ice and rising seas – I found the rapidly increasing toll of extreme weather startling and shocking. In August 2003 I travelled to Tuscany to celebrate my wedding anniversary in the hilltop town of San Gimignano. The heat that year was unprecedented. Temperatures reached 40 degrees for days on end. We could cope by keeping in the shade when the sun was up. But many others throughout Europe were not so lucky. More than 70,000 died from the heat, many of the fatalities being elderly vulnerable people unable to escape sweltering apartments in cities like Paris.

Professor Peter Stott

Returning home, I decided to investigate whether climate change could be implicated in this devastating event. My research, undertaken in collaboration with colleagues from Oxford University, showed that greenhouse gas emissions had more than doubled the risk of the extreme temperatures seen that summer

Ours was the first study to link climate change to a specific meteorological event. It showed that climate change was now no longer just a future threat, the threat was already here. It led me on to a whole new field of research, one that aims to help people cope better with heatwaves, floods and droughts by providing up-to-date information about the changing risks of such extreme weather.

While we can make efforts to adapt to our changing climate, the science shows this challenge becomes much harder if we don’t also take action to mitigate its effects by reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases. The Met Office Hadley Centre is heavily involved in providing policy relevant advice to the UK government. As part of that role, I have been to some of the major climate conferences where nations decide on collective action on climate, including last year’s COP meeting in Katowice, Poland.

There, I presented the latest data showing that the last 4 years were globally the warmest on record and I released new analysis of the extreme record breaking temperatures of last summer across Europe). I also attended an event with Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who started a mass movement of school strikes on climate. I found it very inspiring to hear her speak so articulately. Thanks to her leadership, there is now a younger generation of citizens actively involved in promoting a more sustainable future.

More and more, I realise, we need to talk more about climate change; its causes, effects and solutions. That is why I was delighted to be asked to be involved in the BBC documentary, Climate Change: The Facts. It chimes with a growing interest I have in science communication. As part of my joint position at the University of Exeter, I lead a project called Climate Stories. With a group of scientists from the Met Office and the University of Exeter, artists and local community groups, we have been writing poems, composing songs and making pictures to find new ways of talking about the work we do and connecting with wider audiences. Creating stories together has helped build new positive narratives about our changing climate.

Climate change is not an easy subject to talk about. Even though there are many possible ways to reduce our emissions it is still a challenging task. But like other difficult topics, talking about it helps. When we do, the future can look a whole lot more hopeful.

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