2023 was the second hottest year since records began in the UK, according to provisional data from the Met Office, with the hottest year still being 2022.
While the UK did not experience same kind of record-breaking heatwave we saw in 2022 – and just dodged the extreme temperatures which hit southern Europe – the weather experts looked at the average mean temperature and found the climate across the two years was not too different.
2023 had a provisional mean temperature of 9.97C, while 2022′s average mean was 10.03C.
The third highest temperature for the UK was not very long ago either – it was in 2014, when the average of 9.88C. In fact, all of the ten warmest years in the UK have occurred since 2003.
The last year was also the warmest year for a minimum temperature, according to the Met Office, and was ranked the second warmed for Central England Temperature – that’s the world’s longest instrumental series dating back to 1659.
When just looking at Wales and Northern Ireland, they had their hottest year ever, while Northern Ireland had its wettest year since 2002.
Eight of the last 12 months were warmer than average for the UK, particularly June – the hottest for the UK on record – and September, when temperatures peaked at 33.5C on September 10.
As the Met Office pointed out, human-induced climate change is behind this.
2023′s temperature would have been around a 1-in-500 year event in a climate unaffected by humans – that’s a 0.2% chance of reaching the same temperature each year.
But, due to human’s carbon emissions, there’s now a 33% chance of reaching that mean temperature each year.
By the end of this century, that likelihood could increase to 79%.
And we already know the damage it is doing to the UK environment and biodiversity – the iconic oak tree is also under threat due to the changing temperatures.
The UK was not alone in seeing temperatures rise last year – 2023 is expected to be the hottest year globally.
Meanwhile, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are also at their highest for at least two million years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change.
Met Office senior scientist Mike Kendon said: “The observations of the UK climate are clear.
“Climate change is influencing UK temperature records over the long term, with 2023 going down as another very warm year and the second warmest on record.
“Had the 2023 value occurred during the 20th Century, it would have been, by far, the warmest year on record.”
Of course, the climate crisis isn’t just about rising temperatures.
As Kendon said: “A warmer atmosphere has a greater capacity to hold moisture, so as our climate warms, we expect it to become wetter too and, while there is a large amount of annual variability, that trend is also apparent in the observations.”
We saw 11% more rain than average in 2023, with the UK’s sixth wettest March, July and joint-sixth wettest October, especially after storms like Babet and Ciaran.
December was also a particularly gloomy month – some counties in the UK only enjoyed around one hour per day of sunshine in December, according to the Met Office.
In fact the UK had just 27.9 hours of sunshine across the whole month.