UK heat forecast: A hypothetical weather forecast for 2050 comes true next week

The climate crisis is pushing weather extremes around the world, and temperatures in northern latitudes have been particularly sensitive to these changes. Meteorologists at the UK Met Office – the UK’s official weather forecasting agency – therefore dove into the very long range climate models in the summer of 2020 to see what kind of temperatures they would forecast in around three decades.

“No actual weather forecast,” the Met Office charts said. “Examples of plausible weather patterns based on climate projections.”

Well, on Monday and Tuesday, the “plausible” becomes reality – 28 years earlier.

Simon Lee, an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University in New York, noted the striking similarity between the outlook for 2050 and the forecast for the start of next week in the UK.

“Today’s forecast for Tuesday is surprisingly nearly identical for large parts of the country,” Simon tweetedadding in a later post that “what happens on Tuesday gives a glimpse of the future.”

In 30 years, this forecast will seem rather typical.

Temperatures are expected to be 10-15 degrees above normal early next week in the UK. Highs could approach 40 degrees Celsius (about 104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time – a prediction that prompted meteorologists to issue a “red” heat warning for the first time ever.

To be clear, it really would be record heat. The country’s hottest temperature ever measured was 38.7 degrees Celsius at the Cambridge Botanic Garden in 2019.

It is also a clear sign of how quickly the climate crisis is changing our climate.
“We were hoping we wouldn’t get to this situation,” Met Office climate attribution scientist Nikos Christidis said in a statement. “Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of extreme temperatures in the UK. The chances of seeing 40C days in the UK could be up to 10 times more likely in the current climate than in a natural climate unaffected by human influence.

The likelihood of exceeding 40 degrees is “increasing rapidly,” Christidis said.

It’s more than a few uncomfortable days. Extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather events – we just don’t tend to see it happening in the moment, when heatstroke and death are attributed to underlying conditions such as heart disease or respiratory disease.

And recent reports suggest no more than 5% of UK homes have air conditioning to help keep residents cool.
We saw a surprisingly similar situation unfold in the United States last summer, when the Pacific Northwest was in extreme heat for days. Hundreds of people died in this heat wave. British Columbia officials noted that more than 800 “excess deaths” occurred during the heat – deaths that were unexpected and far from the norm for this time of year.

Unlike floods or wildfires that destroy a city, the sense of urgency around a deadly heat wave isn’t so dramatic, said Kristie Ebi, a climate and health researcher at the University of Washington, pointing out that the heat is a “silent killer”.

“When it’s hot outside, it’s just hot outside – and so it’s a relatively quiet killer,” Ebi previously told CNN. “People are generally unaware and don’t think about the risks associated with these high temperatures.”

She also said it’s important to understand that the climate is not like it was just a few years ago. The climate crisis is already affecting our lives today, and it will continue to hit the most vulnerable.

“We’re all looking forward to summer as we enjoy warmer temperatures, but there are people who are at risk in higher temperatures,” she said. “As the climate continues to change or temperatures rise more than we experienced when we were younger, people need to pay more attention, especially to those around you.”

CNN’s Rachel Ramirez contributed to this analysis.


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