Category Archives: Climate change in the UK

December 2010 was coldest since 1890


The Met Office has just announced that December 2010 was the coldest December since 1890 based on the Central England Temperature (CET) dataset which started in 1659, the longest such set of figures in the world. The month was also the coldest individual calendar month since February 1986, with temperatures dropping as low as -21.1C in Altnaharra in Sutherland, Scotland. There were 10 nights in December 2010 when the temperature fell below -18C somewhere in the UK. Northern Ireland also saw its lowest ever recorded temperature -18C at Castlederg, County Tyrone on 20th December.

Update from the BBC Met blog: Met Office provisional figures show that December 2010 with a mean CET temperature of -0.7C was the second coldest since records began in 1659, beaten only by December 1890 which had a mean of -0.8C.

2010 was also the coldest year since 1986.

According to the Met Office blog

“Remarkably, at a time when global warming remains a very high profile issue around the world, the 2010 UK CET figure is around the levels recorded from the years 1659 to 1758 – and well below the median figure for the whole series which runs from 1659 to 2009. For the UK at least, the climate in the last few years far from warming, has been very definitely cooling. This could be yet more anecdotal evidence that the prolonged solar minima which started around 2007 continues to influence the UK’s climate.

Above photo of Armathwaite in the Lake District by Rich Fraser on Flickr.

Purple herons are nesting in the UK

Purple herons are sporadic visitors to the UK, but they’ve gone one step further this year.  Exciting news from the RSPB reserve in Dungeness, Kent, is that a pair have built a nest and are apparently sitting on eggs.  A 24-hour guard has been established to promote chances of a successful breeding, which would be a historic first for Britain. This southern European heron is expanding its range northward, probably due to climate change, and is expected to become a regular breeder in Britain in the near future, following in the footsteps of its relative, the Little egret.

Hopefully, the presence of this spectacular bird will help the RSPB fight against plans to build an international airport at nearby Lydd.

Praise for planting trees

The Guardian has an editorial this week praising the planting of trees, inspired by a scientific study for the Forestry Commission, calling for the mass planting of trees as a reliable and cheap way of soaking up carbon dioxide.

If Britain planted 23,200 hectares of woodland a year for the next 40 years, this country’s forests could soak up 10% of predicted emissions. That might sound like a lot of trees, but even at this rate woodland would cover only 16% of the land, far below the European average. The way this is done matters: no one wants to see a repeat of the endless dark lines of Sitka spruce which harmed the spirit of Ennerdale, in the Lake District, or drained the life from the peat soil of the Flow Country in Caithness. Read

Record rainfall in the Lake District

The Guardian’s Country Diary has a vivid description of the recent torrential rain in the Lake District, which resulted in the catastrophic flooding of the Cockermouth area. Here’s an extract:

Sheets of precipitation ran off the waterlogged ground and into the becks and rivers, which stampeded downhill causing landslides and destroying bridges and collapsing embankments.  . . . few Lakeland valleys escaped. Waterfalls cascaded down crags, sweeping scree on to roads so that rocks litter the tarmac, some big enough to have smashed through drystone walls and leave gouges in the fellsides in their wake.

About 25 cm of rain fell in 24 hours, making it the wettest day ever recorded in Cumbria. This quantity is the equivalent of the rainfall usually experienced in the Southeast of England over 5-6 months. Newcastle University researchers have found that rainstorms in the UK have doubled in intensity over the last 40 years, due in part to increased water evaporation from warmer seas.

Wintry buzz of bumblebees

Instead of hibernating, bumblebees are showing increasing activity during British winters.  Sightings are most frequent in the south-east and the west of England,  but are also being recorded in East Anglia, Wales, the Midlands and as far north as Hull.  Climate change undoubtedly has a role to play, but the trend is also being attributed to the British passion for gardening and the availablility of flowers all year round for foraging bees. The non-native shrub Mahonia is mentioned as being particularly popular with both gardeners and insects.  The phenomenon, restricted to British urban and suburban areas, is shedding light on how certain species of bees might be adapting to climate change.  More info in the Independent

Queen of Spain Fritillaries breeding in Sussex

The Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia), a rare migrant sporadically seen on the south coast of England, has been observed breeding in Sussex.  With climate change, the butterfly’s range has been creeping ever northwards, and sightings in England have increased in recent years.  The mating Fritillaries photographed by Neil Hulme, member of Butterfly Conservation, are believed to be the offspring of a migrant butterfly spotted in July.  It now remains to be seen if this species will be able to establish a breeding colony, as the Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) has done. Its success will depend largely on environmentally-friendly farming practices, such as not spraying crops at the edge of fields.  More information on the Queen of Spain Fritillary at UK Butterflies

Tropical fish caught in Bristol Channel

An almaco jack (Seriola rivoliana) has been caught 5 miles off Lundy island in what might be another sign of climate change. This species is normally found in warmer waters, such as near Florida and the Caribbean. There is speculation if a colony is establishing itself in the Bristol Channel.  The species is known for rubbing itself against passing sharks – and divers – to remove skin parasites. Daily Telegraph

Sea-life choked by algae

Algae is thriving this warm wet British summer, choking the life out of the sea and mudflats. It’s a problem expected to grow in the future, and the only solution is to cut off the nutrients on which it thrives – sewage pollution or fertilisers leaking from farms. There is also concern about the toxicity of algae when it begins to rot.  Daily Telegraph

Good butterfly news – the Duke of Burgundy

This summer there’s good reason to be optimistic about the Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina), on the list of endangered British butterflies. With the destruction of its preferred woodland habitat, the species hung on in areas of undergrazed downland in the south of England, favoured by the crash in the rabbit population. What’s unusual this year is that a second generation of the butterfly has appeared in one of its more northerly outposts, Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire, owned by the National Trust.  Climate change seems responsible for the butterfly emerging earlier every spring and for this appearance of a second brood in summer, as occurs in southern Europe.  Read more at the BBC, where you can also listen to the clearly thrilled conservation advisor Matthew Oates, as he talks about the revival of the Duke of Burgundy.

Climate is pushing species north

More and more species are moving northwards into Scotland and to ever higher altitudes, according to scientists. They suspect warmer temperatures has allowed species such as grass snakes and orange tip butterflies to move into new regions. In contrast, a tiny spider and a snail face extinction in the face of higher temperatures. BBC

Two million trees for London

London is planning to plant two million trees by 2025, increasing greenery by 5%, in an effort to combat rises in summer temperature during this century. Temperatures could rise by 3.9C by 2080, with the hottest days soaring to 6C to 10C above the present records. London suffers from the “urban heat island effect” in which buildings absorb and release heat, maintaining a higher temperature in cities than surrounding areas, and so it will be more affected by global warming than the South-east.  However, research done in Manchester suggests that a 10% increase in trees in a city can offset the higher temperatures predicted. Other plans involve green roofs and featuring waterproofing and drainage layers topped with soil and plants. The Guardian

See also Leading to a Greener London pdf ( Boris Johnson propoganda?)

Portuguese Man O’ War reach Cornwall

A group of eight Portuguese Man O’ War were found strewn on Tregantle beach near Whitsand Bay. Experts say they expect more to be brought in by prevailing winds. Daily Telegraph. These creatures, which are not actually jellyfish but a species called siphonophores, live in warmer waters than those around the UK but global warming is believed to be pushing them further north – ever closer towards Britain. They can in extreme cases provoke a cardiac arrest and death in particularly sensitive persons.

It is also interesting note that  Portuguese Man O’ War have also been seen increasingly more often on the coasts of Spain.

Note the English and Spanish etymology comes from the creature’s air bladder, which looks similar to the triangular sails of the 15th.century Portuguese man-of-war Caravela latina.

Wine production in Britain

It’s thought that vineyards were first established in Britain in Roman times, and then revived after the Norman Conquest, when most wine-making was run by Benedictine monasteries, ostensibly for religious ceremonies.  The dissolution of the monasteries and the onset of the Little Ice Age were factors in the decline in viticulture, which is now enjoying a boom. Continue reading Wine production in Britain

Protecting seahorses in Britain

An anchor-free zone has been created in Dorset’s Studland Bay to protect Britain’s biggest seahorse breeding colony.  Locals have mixed feelings about this, some worrying about a decline in boating visitors.

Britain’s population of seahorses appears to be on the rise, but connections with global warming have been downplayed.  Factors behind the jump in seahorse sightings include the general public’s increased awareness of their existence and the way internet makes it easier to report and gather data.  Neil Garrick-Maidment, Director of the UK’s Seahorse Trust, believes  fluctuations in populations of seahorses – and other sea life – are chiefly influenced by the constantly shifting Gulf Stream.   Daily Telegraph.