The UK’s warmest year on record

The Met Office has confirmed that 2022 was Britain’s warmest year in a record dating back to 1884. It’s the first time that temperatures have averaged 10 degrees.

In a climate attribution study (see this book for more on how those work) the Met Office says that climate change has made the record 160 times more likely. That very precise number is a useful reminder that when dealing with any weather events or records, we’re talking about the likelihood of something occurring or not. It’s entirely possible to have cold weather, freak snow storms or a cold year. An overall warming trend just decreases the chances of those events. There are also going to be warm years and the chances of those have increased.

We can see this very clearly when we look at the top ten hottest and coldest years in that 139 year record. Warming has made cold years less likely, and we haven’t had a top ten cold year since 1963. Most of them were well before that.

Warm years are much more likely, and lo and behold all the top ten warmest years have occurred this century.

It’s possible that there were warm years in the past, but they would have been rare. The kinds of average temperatures that we see every three or four year now would have been more like 1-in-500 year occurrences before climate change.

We’ll see these same principles in the news repeatedly in 2023. Powerful hurricances, droughts, floods, etc – they were all possible before, and climate change makes them all more likely.

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