Why has April been so dry?

‘April showers’ have been in short supply this month for the UK, but just how dry has it been and why?

April 2022 has been predominantly settled so far. High-pressure has influenced the weather for much of the month, blocking rain-bearing Atlantic frontal systems and killing off any showers, though its effects have not been spread evenly. Low-pressure systems brought some wet days early on, especially across Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Dr Mark McCarthy of the National Climate Information Centre said: “What we’ve seen this month is a long period of time with the UK under the influence of high pressure, bringing calm and settled weather, especially in the south.

“Early in the month, the Azores High dominated the weather in the south, with low-pressure systems continuing to make some progress in northern areas. Later in the month high-pressure remained dominant, but this time centred more towards Scandinavia or Iceland, and this week over the UK itself. What this adds up to is a dry theme for the month, with scattered showers making limited impacts in northern areas.”

April's rainfall between 1 April and 28 April, compared to the meteorological average for the month. The map shows the UK has been predominantly dry in April 2022, except the far north of Scotland.
April’s rainfall between 1 April and 28 April, compared to the meteorological average for the month.

With a couple of days left of April, it has been a dry month across all regions of the UK, although most pronounced in the south. Up to 28 April, which is the latest provisional data that is available, you’d expect to have seen 93% of the average rainfall within the month, but currently for the UK, it’s at just 61% (43.7mm). Much of southern and eastern England has so far received only around a third of the monthly average rainfall, with a few locations in eastern England less than a fifth of normal.

England has so far seen 41% of its average (23.2mm), Wales 46% (40.7mm), Scotland 82% (76.4mm) and Northern Ireland 78% (57.9mm). The only areas that have been wetter than average are to be found in the north of Scotland, although the west of Northern Ireland has also had near-average rainfall.

Historically speaking, the dryness seen so far in April isn’t set to break any records and has not been as dry as April 2021, especially with some rain showers expected before the end of the month. You’d have to go back to 1842 to find the driest April on record, when an average of just 11.3mm of rain fell.

This April’s dryness continues a marked run of dry Aprils in recent years, with an average of just 20.6mm of rain falling in 2021, and 30mm in 2020. April 2019 saw similar levels of dryness to this year, with an average of 48.6mm falling in the month.

There is still some room for manoeuvre in the rainfall statistics, with some showers expected through the weekend.

Near-average picture elsewhere

The full statistics for April’s weather will be published on 3 May, but the indications up to 28 April suggest a near-average picture for much of the other national statistics for the UK.

Average maximum temperatures for the month so far stands at 12.5C, which is 0.5C above average. Minimum temperatures have been fairly close to average for the UK, standing at 3.6C, which is 0.2C lower than the average. There were some notably cold nights early in the month, with a hard frost on 3 April across southern England as temperatures fell to -4.9C at Wisley, Surrey and at Yeovilton, Somerset.

Sunshine levels are around what you’d expect for this time of the month, with an average of 153 hours so far (98% of the average for the whole month). Compared to average, the brighter areas have been found in the east, despite some recent cloud and fog, while northern areas of Scotland have been lagging slightly behind their average sunshine figures.

The full month’s weather and climate statistics will be released on 3 May.

Averages are determined by the 1991-2020 meteorological averaging period.

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Is the glossy ibis about to spread its wings to colonise the UK?

A range of climate factors are in alignment that could help the UK make wildlife history this spring and summer.

Extremely dry conditions in southern Iberia and a relatively higher mean winter temperature over the UK has encouraged large number of glossy ibis – a distant relative of storks and herons – to spend the winter here. It is thought possible that this could lead to the first nesting in the UK of a wetland bird that in Europe is found mainly in the Mediterranean.

A flock of glossy ibis spending the winter at the RSPB's Exminster Marshes reserve in Devon.

A group of glossy ibis in Devon this winter at the RSPB’s Exminster Marshes reserve in Devon. Picture: Stuart Webster.

Malcolm Ausden is an ecologist with the RSPB. He recently co-authored a paper on the prospects of the glossy ibis nesting for the first time in the UK. He said: “The glossy ibis is a bird which is largely found in extensive wetlands in warmer climes. It is one of the world’s most widespread birds, being found from southern and eastern Europe through central and southern Asia to Australia, across Africa and also in the Atlantic and Caribbean region of the Americas.

“In common with a number of wetland birds the glossy ibis has to be able to cope with occasional periods of drought and this strategy may force a shift to new locations should existing areas become unsuitable. In fact, the glossy ibis did make a leap across the Atlantic, colonising the warmer parts of the Americas from the 19th Century onwards. So this species has a proven track record of colonising new areas far from its traditional breeding grounds.

“Weather conditions in Spain were extremely dry last winter and this encouraged a large number of glossy ibises to disperse north to the UK where they encountered milder-than-average winter conditions. Glossy ibises are unable to survive prolonged periods of cold weather. We still have large numbers of glossy ibises across the UK and if they remain here they may well see the UK as a good place to nest.”

Grahame Madge is a climate spokesman for the Met Office, as well as being a keen birdwatcher. He said: “Within my lifetime I have seen notable changes in the UK’s birdlife with several species now nesting in the UK which were formerly extremely rare visitors. A few years ago it may have been deemed fanciful to think that a bird more associated with the Mediterranean could begin to nest in the UK. Over the last couple of decades little, cattle and great white egrets have all started to nest in the UK and now there is an indication that the glossy ibis may join the growing list. If it doesn’t happen this summer, then many believe it is surely only a matter of time.

“Although it is tempting to speculate about which species may arrive in the UK, many of our traditional species are losing out in, especially in southern England, as their ranges shift further north.”

Change in average winter temperature in the UK

The average winter temperature in the UK over the last 60 years has increased.

Dr Mark McCarthy is the head of the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre. He said: “UK temperature has risen by close to 1C in the last 60 years as a consequence of global climate change. We see this across all seasons, and for the 30-year period between 1961-1990 the mean winter temperature was 3.3°C. By 1991 to 2020 the 30-year average winter temperature had risen to 4.1°C. One consequence of our changing climate is that it is already influencing the range of some of the flora and fauna that can make their home here.”

The mean temperature for the UK in Winter 2022 was 5.2°C, more than 1.0°C above the long-term average for the last 30 years.

The UK winter mean temperature has increased by more than 1.0C since the mid 1960s.

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What’s the weather outlook for the bank holiday weekend?

There will still be a good deal of dry weather around through the weekend, with many places seeing the sun at times.

After what has been a mild and settled week for many, there’s a signal for some brief interludes of showery rain during the bank holiday weekend, although the details are still being determined.  

High pressure has been sitting over the UK for much of the week, bringing a good deal of dry, fine weather and some sunny spells.

Although the bank holiday weekend will continue that theme for many, the chance of rain increases as a band of showers and cloudier skies move in from the northwest by the end of Saturday. The precise extent of how this band of rain moves southeast over the UK during Saturday night and Sunday is still uncertain, with forecasting models producing a number of alternate scenarios – but broadly the further north and west you are, the more likely to see some rain. 

Despite the chance of showers in some areas, there will still be a good deal of dry weather around through the weekend, many places also seeing the sun at times.   

Alex Deakin presents the 10 day trend

On the whole, bank holiday Monday should see plenty of dry weather for the UK, with only the odd isolated light shower, although the far north of Scotland could see some more persistent rain, depending on how the weekend’s weather develops.  

Met Office Deputy Chief Meteorologist Rebekah Sherwin said: “It’s an interesting set-up for the weekend’s weather after what has been a fine, dry and settled week for most. 

“Although there’s plenty of detail to be resolved in the coming days, there will still be a good deal of dry weather in the bank holiday weekend, albeit with some rain spreading in from the northwest on Saturday and Sunday. The uncertainty at the moment is how far this rain might stretch towards the southeast on Sunday, but the further southeast you are the more likely you are to stay dry. Most places should also see some sunny spells on one day or the other during the weekend.    

“The set-up for next week is for that largely settled theme to continue, with brief incursions of showers and temperatures most likely staying around average for early May.” 

You can check the latest forecast on our website, or by following us on Twitter and Facebook, as well as on our mobile app which is available for iPhone from the App store and for Android from the Google Play store.

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Sir Patrick Vallance highlights the ‘trusted’ voices of climate science

In a hearing of the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee yesterday [26 April, 2022] Sir Patrick Vallance – the Government Chief Scientist – indicated the role and trust of climate science in helping achieve climate targets.

Sir Patrick Vallance highlighting the value of climate science in the Science Pavilion (jointly hosted by the Met Office) at COP26 in Glasgow in November, 2021. Picture: Grahame Madge, Met Office

He said: “I think there needs to be clear, consistent messaging. And if you look at the data from the public, they do trust scientists and therefore, climate scientists and others who can comment on this are trusted voices in this space and can give neutral policy, independent science advice, which I think is helpful.”

Talking about the individual measures which will be required to help meet climate targets, Sir Patrick added: “One of the problems is that the individual actions appear trivial. You know, I’m going to cycle a bit more. I’m going to eat a bit less meat, I’m going to fly less. But aggregated across entire populations, they make a big difference. And so making sure that people understand what they can do as individuals is an important part of this.”

Recognising the need for the public to be ‘enabled’ to make climate-friendly choices, Sir Patrick added: “Cycling is easier if you’ve got an infrastructure to cycle on. It requires reducing what Bill Gates has called the green premium. If it costs you ten times more to do something, it’s very difficult for people to do. And therefore, really working on reducing that cost and making the affordability work and making sure that regulation and barriers are removed and regulation is in the right place to drive behaviours in that way. So I think there’s a series of levers that need to be looked at rather than thinking this is a dramatic, sudden, all society big change. I mean it’s a series of things that need to take place.”

View the full House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee session with Sir Patrick Vallance.

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Met Office and Stories with Symbols link up on learning resources

The Met Office has linked up with children’s charity Stories with Symbols to help produce learning resources on weather and climate for children with special educational needs.  

Stories with Symbols is a charity that creates videos for children with additional speech, language and communication needs, and recently visited the Met Office to create a series of accessible videos on weather and climate.  

It’s hoped the videos will be used by specialist schools around the country, as well as by parents and children at home, to help make what can be quite a complex subject into something that is simple and easy to understand.  

Co-founder of Stories with Symbols Alex Rowe said: “From the ground up, our videos are designed with our audience of children with additional needs in mind. We’re able to allow for extra processing time through the pace of speech in our videos. We also embrace and employ a wide range of communications tools, such as on-screen symbols, facial expressions, props and gestures, all to help convey the key meaning to our young learners. 

“We know that our existing videos are used by children at home, in schools and by therapists as part of programmes of support. These new videos are for an audience of slightly older children, for whom it can be a struggle to source accessible material which both meets their needs and respects their maturing interests. 

“The Met Office was really enthusiastic right from the start and immediately recognised in our project its goal to communicate about weather and climate to a more diverse audience. Being able to film at the Met Office and speak to a real climate scientist gave us an opportunity to link the topics from the books in our videos to a real, relevant, place.”  

The first Stories with Symbols video, aimed to help young people with special educational needs learn more about the weather.

Stories with Symbols started as a way to communicate story books to children with special educational needs, but the link up with the Met Office is part of a move into educational features on different subject areas.  

Alex Rowe added: “The topics of weather and climate have never been more relevant, so we’re really excited about engaging a more diverse range of children in the discussion. It’s something that affects all of us and we believe it’s a subject many children are curious to learn more about, whether they have additional needs or not.” 

The Met Office also produces a range of free resources for schools around learning about weather, climate and climate change. This has helped hundreds of young people understand the impacts of weather and climate change locally and globally, for people, places and businesses.  

Met Office Learning Consultant Rosanna Amato, who features in the videos with Stories with Symbols, said: “It has been absolutely fantastic to work with Stories with Symbols and contribute to their mission of creating these learning resources for young people with special educational needs.  

“Everyone deserves to be able to learn about weather and climate, and I’m thrilled we’ve been able to play a small role in helping communicate some of our Met Office science to the Stories with Symbols audience.  

“We have also gained some great insights into how we can share complex climate science messages in a simple and engaging way, which will help the Met Office as we continue to develop educational resources for a more diverse audience in the coming years.”  

The first video is available now on the Stories with Symbols YouTube page, with further videos set to be released in the coming months.  

Find out more about Stories with Symbols on YouTube and on the Stories with Symbols website.  

Explore the Met Office’s range of education resources for schools and educators.  

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Overshoot likely needed to keep to 1.5C rise by end of century

Could the world still be on track to keep global temperature rise to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century? 

Yes, with ambition it could be. But, increasingly, this almost certainly involves some form of ‘overshoot’ where temperature rise exceeds the 1.5C threshold before coming back down nearer the end of the century. If this happens there are several apposite questions, including: the duration of any overshoot; how far above 1.5C any overshoot could be; and consideration of what the wider environmental impacts could be. 

Any overshoot of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels will place increasing stress on parts of the environment, including the cryosphere, such as here in Antarctica. Picture: Shutterstock.

On Monday 4 April, the IPCC will be publishing the third part of its AR6 assessment – the most complete review of climate science in nearly a decade. Working Group III will present the scientific evidence around mitigation – the considerations about how to avert the worst impacts of climate change by slowing the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, and even removing the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere which are causing the planet’s temperature to rise. 

Dr Andy Wiltshire is the Met Office Head of Earth System and Mitigation Science. He said: “According to the IPCC’s latest assessment, the earth’s temperature is around 1.1C above pre-industrial levels – generally recognised as the period between 1850 and 1900. This really doesn’t give us much headroom to avoid breaking one of the Paris Agreement ambitions of not exceeding 1.5C. 

“At COP26 in Glasgow, last November, countries updated their individual pledges to curb greenhouse gas emissions. When totted up these pledges – known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – take us a certain way towards averting the worst impacts of climate change, but analysis shows barely a chance that any of the current climate change scenarios will get us to a point where we can prevent peaking above 1.5C for a period of time without more urgent and immediate action.”  

Andy and his team have been working on an academic paper using scenarios prepared by the IPCC for its SR1.5 report in 2018. Andy added: “Our study reveals that it is extremely difficult to find a scenario consistent with the CoP26 pledges that can keep the world from rising above 1.5C with confidence. In this set of scenarios, meeting the COP26 pledges likely implies an overshoot of 30 to 70 years, reaching an average value of around 1.7C before coming back down to around 1.5C at the end of the century.” 

Although feasible, the overshoot trajectories come with added risks for climate impacts along with the apparent optimism. These include:  

  • Reliance on technologies untested at scale:
    It relies on more aggressive action to tackle atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to help bend the curve downwards after the temperature peak. Increasingly this is likely to require the use of technologies to ‘suck’ extra greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere; If the greenhouse gas removal can’t be scaled the world will stay above 1.5C for longer. 
  • Commitment to higher long-term climate risks:
    By the end of the century sea levels will have risen more than without an overshoot because of the period of enhanced warming. Additionally, the Cryosphere – the ice world – will have lost even more volume due to the higher temperatures. Furthermore, some impacts, such as loss of species, will be irreversible. 
  • Exposure to a greater chance of passing key climate tipping points:
    Whilst we don’t know the precise trigger points for large-scale climate tipping points even a temporary incursion above 1.5C will take us closer to thresholds which could initiate tipping points. 

Prof Jason Lowe OBE is the Head of Climate Services at the Met Office Hadley Centre. He said: “Tackling climate change is ultimately about trying to prevent every fraction of a degree rise in the earth’s global temperature, and adapting to the fraction of warming that is unavoidable. Every delay in reducing emissions increases the risks from climate impacts and increases the reliance on technologies for enhanced carbon-dioxide removal that remain unproven at a large-scale. 

“There is reason to be optimistic. Pledges made during CoP26 have further bent the curve downwards and the ratcheting mechanisms under the Paris Agreement are taking effect. “However, we are increasingly looking to a future where we will have to actively remove the greenhouses gases that we currently emit into the atmosphere if we want a 1.5C warming limit.”

The Working Group III report will provide further insight into the range of options available to reduce emissions, including their costs and feasibility at scale.  It will also help us further understand how to develop climate resilient development pathways that consider mitigation, adaptation and other societal development needs in a more holistic way.  

Andy Wiltshire concluded: “Emission reductions are inescapable if we are to avoid the worst impacts from climate change.  Every year delay in reaching peak emissions increasingly commits future generations to a technological solution that is currently untested at the scale that will be required.” 

Met Office science increasingly focuses on making a resilient net zero future a reality. Our expertise can improve the deployment and operation of renewable energy generation. Our ability to simulate the earth system provides tools that can help us better work with the natural system to take up carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases. Our observational datasets can help us monitor progress towards a net zero future, with our inversion-monitoring approach helping to identify emission sources.   

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How is the British Red Cross helping people face the impact of the changing climate?

As we share information on extreme events this month, the British Red Cross share in this guest post how they, and the wider Red Cross movement, are supporting people and communities around the globe to adapt to our changing climate.

The British Red Cross, alongside the Red Cross, have been supporting people and communities impacted by severe weather events for decades right here in the UK and overseas. When Storm Arwen hit the UK our emergency response volunteers were on the ground to support over 3,000 people affected. With drought devastating communities across Southern Africa, we helped train people to source new ways of providing food and income for their families. And using technology to help predict when a harsh winter cold was arriving in Mongolia we were able to provide cash at the right time for farmers to care for their stock.

Getting people through emergencies is what we have always done and, as extreme weather events, like floods, storms, heatwaves, and droughts, increase due to our changing climate, our work is more vital than ever to help communities to become more resilient.

We’re making sure communities are ready and we’re helping them stay safe and adapt to the changing world around them and the impact of climate change. When we talk about ‘adaptation’ it means helping people urgently change the way they live including, the way people earn an income, grow food, build homes or look after their finances. Our teams do this by supporting people with new tools, skills and training so they can build resilience, focusing on locally-led adaptation where possible to empower communities to lead the change.

Adapting with new ways of earning an income

With many people relying on the weather to grow and sustain crops and livestock, the more frequent periods and unpredictability of drought and flash flooding across the world, can seriously affect their income. We help people find ways to earn an income where they don’t have to rely on the weather. This might be through training people up in alternative fields of work or giving cash grants to buy what they need immediately and then invest in new ways to earn money.

Adapting with new farming techniques

Image credit: Shutterstock

We are helping train people to use innovative farming techniques in places like Zimbabwe and Kenya so they can grow crops in difficult weather conditions to feed their families or sell. Like in Zimbabwe, where Musa, a Red Cross volunteer, has been busy teaching climate-smart farming skills to rural communities: “We teach climate-smart farming to subsistence farmers which supports them to grow food during drought. This help them to become less reliant on the rain, which is unpredictable. This means they can sell produce to pay for school fees for their children, they can buy medicine for family members who get sick or buy chickens or household items they might need. It empowers people in the long term, I’ve seen that people are really benefiting.”

Adapting with financial training

In flood-prone places like Bangladesh, we’re supporting people with financial training, so they can strengthen their businesses. This includes information about how to organise and grow savings, to budget, to set up bank accounts and more. It means people can manage their money better when an emergency happens. Misti in Bangladesh has been made homeless numerous times by cyclones. She is now a boat taxi driver and a grant from the Red Cross Red Cross helped her to buy her own boat, so she can keep more of her earnings: “I have a bank account. I’m saving money in case of an emergency. I don’t have much cash in my hand but if I suddenly needed it, I can get that money from my account.”

With extreme weather events already becoming more common here in the UK and overseas, it is the homes, livelihoods and health of the people impacted that are at risk. At the British Red Cross we are working tirelessly to support and promote early action to help communities become more resilient to the changing climate, so they are less vulnerable to risk and can adapt to the changing world around them.

You can see more of what we have shared on extreme events by following the #GetClimateReady hashtag on Twitter.

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Extreme events on the increase in a changing climate

Earlier this month Professor Peter Stott examined extreme weather events around the world and how attribution studies can assess whether these are as a result of anthropogenic (human-induced) climate change. But what does the future hold? Can we expect to see more extreme events? Here we explore what the science tells us in relation to droughts, heat, wildfires and rainfall/flooding.

Rainfall/flooding

We mentioned in our earlier blog post that an attribution analysis of the wettest February on record for the UK (which occurred in 2020) showed that the extreme rainfall experienced could become nine times more likely by the end of the century than in pre-industrial times[1]. Wet weather events such as these are expected to increase over the coming decades in the UK.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that “it is virtually certain that, in the long term, global precipitation will increase with increased global mean surface temperature”. Warmer air holds more moisture, which is one of the reasons a rise in global temperatures will result in more rainfall in some regions around the world. Particularly high levels of precipitation can occur due to slow-moving storms, with the potential for high rainfall accumulations projected to be fourteen times more frequent across Europe by 2100 (for 4.3°C of global warming – a high emissions scenario)[2].

Natural variability, particularly in places such as the UK, can make it more difficult than with temperature extremes to separate the contribution of anthropogenic climate change from other influences on heavy rainfall events. It is not yet possible to discern underlying changes in local rainfall extremes above natural variability using only the observation record[3]. Research following record-breaking rainfall in October 2020 has indicated, however, that days with extreme rainfall accumulations will become more frequent through the century[4].

Heat

In the UK and around the globe, recent years have seen a number of record-breaking temperatures. In June 2021 Canada hit its highest recorded temperature of 49.6°C – you can find out more about this in our latest MostlyClimate podcast with a guest speaker from Environment and Climate Change Canada – and Australia recorded its joint hottest day on record in January of this year with 50.7°C.

In the UK we can expect to see hotter, drier summers in the future, with temperatures similar to the 2018 joint-hottest summer on record around 50% more likely by 2050 even in a low emissions scenario[5]. A study following the highest recorded UK temperature (38.7°C in July 2019) considered whether exceeding 40°C is within the possibilities of the UK climate[6]. Lead author, Met Office Senior Scientist Dr Nikolaos Christidis, concluded that, “the likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has been rapidly increasing, and, without curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, such extremes could be taking place every few years in the climate of 2100.”

If the average global temperature reaches 2°C above pre-industrial levels, the number of people in regions across the world affected by extreme heat stress – a potentially fatal combination of heat and humidity – could increase nearly 15-fold. The new interactive atlas from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shows possible climate futures for temperature and precipitation, highlights the importance of minimising future global warming.

Wildfires

Wildfires are often tied with significant drought in the UK. Increased temperatures and reduced humidity[7] are likely to lead to a greater risk of fire danger in the UK by the end of the century if temperatures are not kept below 2°C and even at this level of warming the risk could double[8].

A recent United Nations Environment Programme report has predicted that even if greenhouse gases are reduced, there could be a global increase in extreme wildfires of up to 50% by the end of the century. The report, which included contributions from the Met Office and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, found that some of the biggest increases will be in areas not typically used to seeing wildfires, such as the Arctic and central Europe. Areas of tropical forest in Indonesia and the southern Amazon are also likely to see increased burning if greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate.

Research published on the Amazon rainforest last year found that a shift to hotter and drier conditions in the future could result in a greater burned area and resultant fire emissions. The Amazon rainforest is a natural carbon sink, removing and storing carbon from the atmosphere. With global warming limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, climate model experiments show a reduction in carbon storage of 7%. However, if warming were to increase to 4°C, the loss of carbon storage from these ecosystems could be as much as 30% highlighting the importance of understanding the link between climate change, fire risk and the carbon cycle which could be used to inform fire and land-use management strategies.

Droughts

2010-2012 saw an exceptional drought in the UK, one of the most significant for some regions of England in 100 years[9]. Research published last year using UKCP18 data indicated higher frequency and more severe long-term droughts in the UK, with droughts at least as severe as the one experienced in 2010 increasing by 86% at a 2.0°C level of global warming and by 146% at 4.0°C. The chart below also shows how summers are expected to become drier relative to typical conditions across both southern and northern Europe between now and 2100, with more extreme dry summers in the south[10].

A climate risk report completed earlier this year for the East Africa region indicates a projected increase in variability of seasonal rainfall could result in more frequent wetter and drier years and a higher risk of flood and drought events. These have the potential to impact socio-economic development by affecting sectors such as agriculture, electricity generation and health.

Taking action to minimise impacts

As explored earlier this month, we are already seeing an increase in extreme events attributable to climate change. Climate projections clearly indicate that we can expect further rises in many of these in the coming decades both in the UK and around the world. Limiting carbon emissions in order to minimise future warming can help stave off the worst of these impacts, which is why the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact recognised the imperative to ‘keep 1.5°C alive’ and ensure that global temperatures do not go above this level. In order to combat the effects of these extreme events, we will also need to adapt to our changing climate, recognising that we are already seeing impacts and that, even if we stopped all carbon emissions today, we would see impacts of climate change long into the future.

We have been sharing information on extreme events on our social media channels this month. Follow #GetClimateReady to learn more and look out for a focus on mitigation soon.


[1] Davies et al 2021 https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wea.3955

[2] Kahraman et al 2021 https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2020GL092361

[3] Kendon et al 2018 https://journals.ametsoc.org/view/journals/clim/31/7/jcli-d-17-0435.1.xml

[4] Christidis et al. 2021 https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/asl.1033

[5] UKCP18

[6] Christidis et al 2020 https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-16834-0

[7] Arnell et al https://centaur.reading.ac.uk/96625/8/Arnell_2021_Environ._Res._Lett._16_044027.pdf

[8] Perry et al https://nhess.copernicus.org/articles/22/559/2022/nhess-22-559-2022-discussion.html

[9] Kendon et al https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wea.2101

[10] https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2021/drier-european-summers-projected-under-human-induced-climate-change

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Rainfall Rescue Project – bringing archived data back to life

At the Met Office National Meteorological Archive in Exeter we look after the ‘national memory of the weather’, writes Catherine Ross, the Met Office’s archivist.

This archive consists of the millions of meteorological observations produced by the Met Office since its incarnation in 1859 and a large collection of supporting data and information from across the globe.

Catherine Ross – Met Office archivist – with part of the vast Met Office archive: the national memory of weather. Picture: Grahame Madge, Met Office

Among this treasure trove of climatological data are the Ten Year rainfall books, which are not very well named, and are actually folders of loose paper sheets! They hold a vast and hitherto largely untapped supply of monthly rainfall data from 1677 – 1960.

The earliest data comes from a range of different published and unpublished sources. From 1860 data was sent into the British Rainfall Organization, and later the Rainfall Branch of the Met Office, by a network of observers from all around the British and Irish Isles.

Rainfall observation proved popular! When George Symons established the British Rainfall Organization in 1860 there were already several hundred rain gauges and this number increased to several thousand over the following 30 years. All of them diligently cared for and monitored by volunteer observers, some of whom dedicated many decades of their lives to the careful collection of rainfall data.

One challenge in using the data is that each folder contains ten years of data for every station, so you have to go through every single folder to find all the data for one place. The data series was therefore a perfect candidate for scanning in the archive. One year and 66000 sheets of paper later we had a lot of digital images loaded to our Digital Library and Archive, but to make best use of them, the data still needed transcription.

That’s where Ed Hawkins, the Zooniverse platform and the RainfallRescue.org site came in. The national lockdown in March 2020 also provided a sudden supply of people with spare time on their hands and quite incredibly 16000 volunteers transcribed all 66000 pages (containing 5.28 million numbers) within 16 days.

In fact each number was transcribed four times for quality control, so the 16,000 volunteers actually transcribed 21 million observations and with the additional collection of location information the total keystrokes are estimated at 100 million!

It was great to see the work of the volunteers of 2020 bringing the records of those volunteer observers of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries back to life. After a rigorous process of checking by a team from Reading, the Met Office and eight dedicated volunteers from the original project, a large tranche of that data has been added to the official Met Office national rainfall climate series. Rainfall Rescue now accounts for 84% of the monthly observations in the HadUK-Grid for 1836 – 1960!

UK annual rainfall statistics

UK annual rainfall statistics.

From this work we now have a record of UK-wide rainfall variations and trends back to 1836. To understand the risks from climate change and weather extremes we need to understand the past. Rainfall in the UK is notoriously variable, we are an island nation prone to both flood and drought. Therefore to capture past extremes we need long historical climate records. The figure below shows annual rainfall averaged across the whole of the UK back to 1836. A general increase in rainfall is evident, but the driest year in the series is 1855 and the wettest 1872 with the new data allowing us to map these extremes in more detail than ever before.

Driest and wettest years in the UK rainfall record.

Not only has all this work been achieved incredibly quickly, it has also broken the definition of what makes a record archival. In its lifecycle a document moves from being a record – in everyday use – to an archive where it is kept as part of a memory – in our case the memory of the weather. The 66,000 sheets of numbers certainly count as that, but in their new transcribed form the same numbers are ‘living a new life’ as part of the datasets available for daily use by scientists at the Met Office and around the world. It’s a little like a parallel universe for archives! We think this is great, but we’re also loving the fact that this goldmine of data is now back in the hands of the scientists who need it.

You can read more about the project in our press release here.

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World Meteorological Day 2022

World Meteorological Day takes place every year on 23 March to celebrate the founding of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1950. The theme of this year’s event is “Early Warning and Early Action,” and the day will spotlight the vital importance of hydrometeorological and climate information for disaster risk reduction.

Extreme weather and climate events are occurring more frequently across the world as a result of climate change, leaving us more exposed to the hazards that come with these conditions. Evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts and tropical cyclones has strengthened in recent years, as has their attribution to human influence. You can read more on this in our recent blog post.

World Meteorological Day 2022 – Early Warning and Early Action

As a world leader in weather and climate science, the Met Office delivers products and services in the UK and countries across the globe, including supporting the general public, government and local authorities through its weather forecasts. However, straightforward weather forecasts are not always enough to enable people to take informed action. Experts, including the WMO, are calling for more impact-based forecasting to highlight what the weather will do and the impacts that this could have, with early warning systems being crucial to save lives and livelihoods.

The WMO are calling for greater coordination between national meteorological and hydrological services, disaster management authorities and development agencies, which is fundamental to better prevention, preparedness and response. Within the next five years, everyone on earth should be protected by early warning systems against increasingly extreme weather and climate change, according to an ambitious new United Nations target announced today.

Early warning systems for detecting dangerous weather are only useful if they are met with early action, which has become more important than ever as the world has seen the number of extreme climate events intensify.

Will Lang, Head of the Met Office’s National Severe Weather Warning Service says, “here in the UK, our warnings consider both the potential for severe weather and its impact on people, properties and our infrastructure. We can then suggest the most effective actions for people to take to look after themselves, their families and their communities. Tragically, major storms such as those we experienced earlier this year can lead to fatalities and widespread damage, but these impacts can be reduced through early warning and early action.”


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