According to provisional data from the Met Office, the UK experienced the warmest year on record in 2023. This finding places 2023 slightly cooler than 2022, which holds the record with an average temperature of only 0.06C higher.
Significantly, 2023 marked the warmest year ever for Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the broader trend where the UK experienced the warmest year. The Met Office has attributed these high temperatures mainly to the impacts of climate change, making such warm years “significantly more likely.”
Met Office Senior Scientist Mike Kendon emphasized the clear influence of climate change on the UK’s climate trends. Kendon noted that while the UK’s climate will continue to see variability, including cold and wet periods, the overall trend observed over recent decades has been a series of broken high-temperature records.
The summer of 2023 was notably extreme, starting and ending with record-breaking temperatures in June and September, respectively, where temperatures soared above 33C. The UK boasts some of the oldest temperature records in the world, dating back to 1659.
Despite these consecutive record-breaking years, the government faced criticism for its preparedness for the impacts of climate change. In 2022, the UK saw about 3,000 more deaths than average among the over-65s, and 20% of medical operations were cancelled due to the heat.
Greenpeace UK’s policy director, Doug Parr, criticized Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent climate policies, arguing that they would exacerbate the impact of climate change. Parr highlighted Sunak’s focus on increasing oil and gas drilling and delaying or cancelling key emissions-reducing policies.
The government responded by reaffirming its commitment to tackling climate change and meeting net zero targets without overburdening families.
Alongside the rise in temperature, average rainfall in the UK increased in 2023 by 11% overall and by over 20% in England and Northern Ireland. Scientists project that the UK will face hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters due to climate change.
Globally, 2023’s record temperatures were accompanied by wildfires in Greece, Tunisia, and Hawaii, a record wildfire season in Canada, and unusually high sea temperatures in the Atlantic.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service is expected to confirm 2023 as the hottest year globally, influenced by climate change and the El Niño weather phenomenon. El Niño’s warming effect will continue into the first half of this year, potentially making 2024 the hottest year on record and pushing global warming past the significant 1.5C threshold established in the 2015 Paris Agreement.