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Robert McSweeney

Robert McSweeney

05.01.2015 | 2:16pm
UK temperature2014 was the UK’s hottest year on record, confirms the Met Office
UK TEMPERATURE | January 5. 2015. 14:16
2014 was the UK’s hottest year on record, confirms the Met Office

Last year was the warmest for the UK since records began in 1910, according to provisional full-year data from the  UK Met Office. 2014 was also the UK’s fourth wettest on record, the agency says.

Record-breaking year

Met Office figures released today show the average temperature in the UK during 2014 was 9.9 degrees Celsius, putting it 1.1 degrees above the long-term average from 1981 to 2010.

This means 2014 was hotter than the previous warmest year of 2006 by 0.2 degrees.

The latest data also shows that eight of the UK’s ten hottest years have occurred since 2002, the Met Office says.

The announcement confirms the Met Office’s  early figures released in December, which suggested that 2014 could be record-breaking.

Consistently warm

The Met Office provisional data shows that the year was consistently warm, rather than having a particularly hot spell that pushed average temperatures up for the year. Every month apart from August was above the long-term average.

2014 was a warm year across the whole of the UK, as the map below shows. It was the hottest year on record for every region of the UK except for Northern Ireland, for which 2014 was the joint-third warmest year.

2014_17_Mean Temp _Anomaly _1981-2010

Map showing 2014 temperatures as a difference from the long-term (1981-2010) average. Source: Met Office

For England, where temperature records stretch back further, 2014 was the hottest year in the 350-year Central England Temperature (CET) record, the longest instrumental record in the world.

The CET record provides daily and monthly temperatures averaged over a roughly-triangular area between the three points of London, Bristol and Lancashire. The average CET record for 2014 of 10.93 degrees puts it just ahead of the previous record of 10.87 degrees in 2006, as shown in the chart below.

CET Record 2014

40 highest-ranked years from warmest to coldest of the Central England Temperature record. Colours show the time period of each year, and height of the bar shows the uncertainty in the measurement. Source: Dr Ed Hawkins of Reading University

Fourth wettest year

2014 was also the fourth wettest year since records began in 1910, with a provisional total of 1297.1 mm of rain. This result means that five of the top six wettest years in the UK have occurred since 2000.

Unlike temperature, the rainfall totals are more variable depending on the region and time of the year. January and February were very wet, for example, causing flooding for much of England in particular, and August was very wet in northern Scotland, the Met Office says. Yet September was the driest month on record for the UK.

Global figures still to come

Full-year global temperature figures are likely to follow later this month from agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA. Provisional figures published in December last year by the World Meteorological Organisation, but based on datasets from NOAA, NASA and the UK Met Office, showed that 2014 was likely to be the hottest year for the world as a whole.

Record high years for global average temperature tend to coincide with the natural climate cycle El Niño, which warms the planet overall. But while an El Niño event was expected for much of 2014, as of the beginning of December, it hadn’t yet materialised. And as Professor William Collins from the University of Reading told us when the WMO’s provisional figures were released:

“It is worrying that these temperatures are occurring even without an El Niño event.”

It is important to note that the difference between the year rankings can come down to a few hundredths of a degree, which is smaller than the uncertainty in how temperature is measured. But even if 2014 misses top spot, it will still be one of the hottest on record.

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