The UK recorded an annual average temperature of more than 10C for the first time last year, the Met Office said as it confirmed 2022 was the country’s hottest year on record.
Research by Met Office scientists has found that climate change driven by humans made the UK’s record-breaking annual temperature around 160 times more likely to occur.
The full temperature data for 2022 shows that the country saw a provisional annual average temperature of 10.03C, the highest in records dating back to 1884 and 0.15C higher than the previous record of 9.88C set in 2014.
The warm conditions would have been expected once in 500 years under a natural climate, without humans warming the planet through activities such as burning fossil fuels, but is now likely every three to four years in the current climate, the experts said.
Met Office climate attribution scientist, Dr Nikos Christidis, said: “To assess the impact of human-induced climate change on the record-breaking year of 2022, we used climate models to compare the likelihood of a UK mean temperature of 10C in both the current climate and with historical human climate influences removed.
“The results showed that recording 10C in a natural climate would occur around once every 500 years, whereas in our current climate it could be as frequently as once every three to four years.”
He also said that by the end of the century with medium levels of greenhouse gas emissions, a UK average temperature of 10C could occur almost every year.
The new figures mean 15 of the UK’s top 20 warmest years on record have all occurred this century – with the entire top 10 in the past two decades.
2022’s record-breaking average of 10.03C is followed by 2014 (9.88C), 2006 (9.70C), 2020 (9.62C) and 2011 (9.61C).
The rest of the top 10 is 2007 (9.56C), 2017 (9.53C), 2003 (9.47C), 2018 (9.45C) and 2004 (9.44C).
All four UK nations set new records in 2022, with England seeing the highest average temperature at 10.94C, followed by Wales (10.23C), Northern Ireland (9.85C) and Scotland (8.50C).
Last year was also the warmest on record in the 364-year Central England Temperature (CET) series, which began in 1659 and is the world’s longest-running temperature dataset.
The annual mean CET for 2022 was 11.1C, beating the previous record of 11.0C in 2014.
Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, said: “Although an arbitrary number, the UK surpassing an annual average temperature of 10C is a notable moment in our climatological history.
“This moment comes as no surprise, since 1884 all the 10 years recording the highest annual temperature have occurred from 2003.
“It is clear from the observational record that human-induced global warming is already impacting the UK’s climate.”
Commenting on the figures, Prof Richard Allan, from the University of Reading, said: “Human-caused climate change explains the unprecedented nature of the summer heatwave in the UK as well as the sustained warmth seen throughout most of 2022, with an annual temperature above 10C for the first time in our observational record.
“But sharp cold snaps like the one experienced in December are still possible in a warmer world.
“Higher temperatures in the UK are contributing to more severe heatwaves, droughts and wildfires but also more intense rainfall events and associated flooding and these impacts will become progressively worse until global temperatures are stabilised by cutting global carbon emissions to net zero.”