2011 is UK's second warmest year on record - Met Office

Sunbathers sit on deck chairs at Brighton beach on 29 September This year saw the second warmest Autumn on record

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This year was the second warmest on record for the UK, the Met Office says.

Provisional figures show that only 2006, with an average temperature of 9.73C (49.5F), was warmer than 2011's average temperature of 9.62C (49.3F).

This year saw high temperatures for lengthy periods; including the warmest April and spring on record, the second warmest autumn and the warmest October day.

Early figures suggest 2011 is ending with a "close to average" December.

The Met Office said its figures were a mean temperature taken over day and night.

'Unseasonably warm'

The mean temperature for the first 28 days of December was 4.7C (40.5F); a big swing from 2010, says the Met Office, when temperatures were 5C below average for the coldest December on record.


The warmth of 2011 certainly catches the attention, especially as it contrasts with the bitterly cold end to 2010, but equally notable are the huge variations in rainfall across the UK.

Scotland notched up quite an achievement with its wettest year on record. However, this fact stands out even more when you consider parts of England have been exceptionally dry.

East Anglia has had its second driest year on record and it has been the third driest in the Midlands.

The reason for the uneven distribution of rainfall can be found in some prolonged periods when the weather pattern across the north-west of Europe was blocked, that is to say stayed the same for several weeks.

High pressure kept much of England relatively dry with rain-bearing Atlantic weather systems deflected north, resulting in the exceptionally wet year in Scotland.

The BBC weather centre is predicting another "very mild" day for New Year's Eve with highs of 13C (55F). Forecasters say it will be mostly cloudy and windy, with perhaps a few brighter spells in the north and east of the UK and the odd outbreak of mainly light rain or drizzle.

John Prior, national climate manager at the Met Office, said: "While it may have felt mild for many so far this December, temperatures overall have been close to what we would expect.

"It may be that the stark change from last year, which was the coldest December on record for the UK, has led many to think it has been unseasonably warm."

All bar one of the top 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1997 and all the UK's top seven warmest years happened in the past decade.

The warmest temperature recorded this year was 33.1C (91.5F) on Monday 27 June at Gravesend in Kent. The Met Office said it was the warmest temperature recorded in the UK for five years.

Apart from January, the other months that had below-average temperatures were June, July and August.

Gravesend was also the location for the warmest October temperature ever, when 29.9C (85.8F) was recorded on 1 October, beating the previous record of 29.4C (84.9F) in the Cambridgeshire town of March on the same day in 1985.

The coldest temperature was -13C (8.6F) at Altnaharra in the Scottish Highlands on 8 January, while the strongest gust of wind was 165mph (265.5kph), recorded at the highest point of the Cairngorms mountain range on 8 December.

'Massive challenge'

Dr Chris Huntingford, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, said the temperature increase was "in agreement with simulations by many independent climate centres around the world".

"As each year passes and we hear that a warming record has been broken, or nearly broken again, it provides further evidence that unfortunately we are not just seeing a natural cycle of global warming, and that instead humans are having an effect on the climate," said Dr Huntingford, who works with climate models to understand the implications of increased levels of greenhouse gases.

He said that despite the global economic crisis, emissions remained high and there was a feeling that economic growth was "totally aligned to the need for burning fossil fuels".

"There is a huge challenge ahead to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to stay below 2C of global warming, and without damaging the economy," he said.

"At present, there is an almost one-to-one correlation between global GDP and magnitude of carbon dioxide emissions, so new energy technologies are desperately needed that break that link."

Wettest year

Scotland had its wettest year on record with 73.2in (1859.5mm) of rain, beating a previous record set in 1990.

However, some parts of England have had very low levels of rainfall, according to the Met Office. East Anglia had its second driest year on record with 17.6in (449mm) of rain and the Midlands its third driest with 23in (586.5mm).

On 23 December, the government granted a drought order to South East Water to help it protect Ardingly reservoir in Sussex after water levels dropped to 12% by the end of November. The water company said an "exceptionally dry" September, October and November had "raised the urgency of the situation".

A graph showing UK temperatures

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