By Anders Lorenzen
The 2020 UK Spring has been unseasonably hot and sunny, with many farmers starting to report drought conditions. And the Met Office, the government meteorological institution, has declared this Spring to be the sunniest on record. Some campaigners argue that this is just the latest extreme weather event, as the climate is rapidly changing in the UK.
Since records began in 1929, there have only been nine previous UK Springs recording more than 500 hours of sunshine. The previous sunniest Spring was all the way back in 1948, recording 555 hours of sunshine. But as May and thereby Spring drew to a close, it firmly beat that figure by recording a whopping 695 hours of sunshine.
These extreme weather patterns fit with what scientists say will happen more frequently as the planet heats up. Back in February the UK recorded another extreme event with record rainfalls across many parts, as that month became the wettest on record. Scientists say that, as the planet continues to warm, we will frequently witness one extreme weather event following the other.
However, in an email to A greener life, a greener world, the Met Office said that the record-breaking sunny Spring is not linked to climate change: “The position of the jet stream to the north of the UK during much of Spring meant high pressure generally dominated across the country for the last few months. This kept the usual Atlantic weather systems largely at bay resulting in a very dry, warm and sunny few months. The positioning of the jet stream to the north of the UK and subsequent prolonged periods of high pressure are part of the natural variation of the British climate, and are not driven by climate change”.
Dr Mark McCarthy from the Met Office added: “Spring 2020 has been very dry, and May in parts of England has been exceptionally dry. As it stands up to May 27, for England, May 2020 is the driest May on record since 1896, with less than 10mm rain falling across England on average.”
Some UK locations have even recorded far less than this. Northamptonshire which is the driest county during May received only 1.5mm of rain. That is very little and is equivalent to the thickness of a 2-pence coin.
McCarthy explains that the weather patterns for the various regions in the country have been different: “The rainfall totals for each part of the UK for each month of Spring (March, April and May) have followed differring patterns. For example, parts of South West England had close to average rainfall in March, with drier conditions in April and very dry conditions in May. However, the pattern for other parts such as northern England was different with April being the driest month”. He further explained that this difference was influenced by the centre of the high pressure and this prolonged period of sunny spell was extremely unusual even if it were to occur in the Summer months.
Friends of the Earth’s nature campaigner, Guy Shrubsole, was alarmed by these extreme weather patterns: “February feels like a distant memory for many reasons but it was the wettest one on record. The Environment Agency in England had almost 600 active flood warnings, a number that’s never been that high. Then May saw cracked and parched ground, crops wilting and rivers looking for all the world like they are in severe drought. There was only 4mm of rain in the entire south-east England for the month. It’s not good enough to just try and enjoy the dry weather when it’s actively harming crops and records are being broken with alarming frequency.”
He added:“Carbon emission can only mean extreme swings from floods to droughts in a few months, with all of the misery that both cause. As lockdown lightens decision-makers need to see both crises, climate and virus, as having the same solution: invest in a green and fair recovery.”
While many sun-hungry Brits would have been delighted by the weather, there are increased concerns about the drought-like conditions. On top of the coronavirus outbreak, this could be seriously costly for the UK economy.