Across the world 2015 was the hottest year on record. When compared with the long-term average between 1850 and 1900, the temperature was around 1C warmer. This increase is mostly the result of long-term warming linked to greenhouse gases, but temperatures in 2015 were also boosted by a very active El Niño – warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures in the Tropical East Pacific. Although one of the strongest El Niño events on record is now waning, it is expected to have a strong impact on the global average temperatures for 2016, which is likely to be another record year.
However, does it follow that if 2016 is another record year that the UK will experience record weather too? Jeff Knight is a climate scientist with the Met Office Hadley Centre. He said: “Global mean temperatures are not a good way of forecasting the year-to-year variations in UK climate, which depend much more on a range of local factors including pressure patterns, wind directions and sea temperatures around the UK.
“Furthermore, evidence from published research for links between the Tropical Pacific and UK summer weather is limited.”
The current El Niño event is expected to terminate before the northern hemisphere summer arrives in June, July and August. Jeff Knight added: “In some years, the El Niño transitions into its counterpart, the La Niña, which has many of the opposite characteristics to El Niño.”
The subsequent evolution of the Tropical Pacific is not yet clear with some long-range forecast systems suggesting a return to neutral conditions, while others suggest a transition to La Niña.
Jeff Knight added: “Many climate indicators, such as global mean temperature, lag El Niño by several months, implying that the record high levels seen recently will continue further into 2016. Conditions in the UK, however, will also be heavily influenced by factors affecting our weather closer to home.”