Last month was the hottest May on record.
2020 is already a hot mess, but this is getting ridiculous.
Few will complain about glorious sunshine during the UK’s lockdown but these latest global record-breaking temperatures remind of us the other big challenge we’re facing: climate change.
According to BBC Science Focus website, the EU’s global climate change monitor reported last month as being 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than average.
2020 already seems like it’s been twelve-months too long, but it was only a few months ago, back in February, that England and Wales recorded record levels of rainfall and widespread flooding. There’s obviously a natural deviation in temperatures and weather patterns but it does seem like we’re breaking more weather records each year.
COVID-19 is a worrying reminder of how vulnerable we all are to global challenges. Many climate scientists believe the level of threat and disruption seen during this pandemic could be a taste of things to come unless more is done to combat climate change.
How Sunny was May 2020 in the UK?
According to the MET Office, it was the driest May on record for England and the second driest May for Wales with both receiving only 17% of the average rainfall for the month.
May was also the sunniest month on record. There were 626 hours of bright sunshine recorded beating the previous record set in 1948 by more than 70 hours. Interestingly, only three UK summers have recorded more hours of bright sunshine than May 2020.
How Hot was the Rest of the World in May 2020?
Record levels of warmth were noted in the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean as well as in Africa, Western Europe, Central America and in northern South America, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US.
Some areas of the world did record cooler temperatures but it wasn’t enough to offset the increase elsewhere. It’s what happening in Siberia that’s most concerning. Surface temperatures in Siberia were up by 10 degrees Celsius.
Siberia has already recorded a far warmer-than-average winter but it’s astonishing to see how one of the coldest regions on Earth is heating up. Khatanga in the Arctic circle has an average temperature of 0 degrees Celsius for last month, but this year it recorded 25 degrees Celsius on May 12th which is double the previous record. The world is also now nearly 1 degree warmer than the 20th century’s average temperature.
What's causing the higher temperatures?
In the UK, it’s been largely due to the Jetstream. The Carbon Brief describes it as a core of strong winds blowing from west to east around five-to-seven miles above the Earth’s surface. In May, it ‘buckled’ allowing one area of high pressure after another to dominate UK weather.
Globally, it’s hard to imagine how climate change isn’t responsible for the record-breaking temperatures across the world.
NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt told the USA Today:
Equally, in an article published on The Guardian website said: “Martin Stendel, of the Danish Meteorological Institute, said the abnormal May temperatures seen in north-west Siberia would be likely to happen just once in 100,000 years without human-caused global heating”.
Human activity is driving temperature changes in our planet. We all need to think about what we can do to reduce that impact. Much of the work has to be done at an international level: governments, policy makers, global organisations and multi-national companies, for example, but there are things individuals and small businesses can do to reduce their carbon footprint.
Why is the dry weather bad for the UK?
The biggest impact is in farming.
A lack of rain means moisture levels in the soil are low which will impact cereal crops. Lower water levels in reservoirs could also mean that without effective management there will be water shortages in the summer months.
What about in other parts of the world?
We already know how deadly heat can be in urban areas where building materials, population density and poverty often mean higher mortality rates in the summer months. In the UK, we know that more people die in road accidents during the warmer weather, but in parts of the US ‘heat kills more people than any other natural disaster.’
The temperature increase in Siberia is especially concerning because the region is home to the world largest area of perma-frost and is already having an impact on local infrastructure, agriculture and homes.
A recent oil spill caused by the warmer weather is an environmental emergency in the region and a severe threat to the local eco-systems.
What does this mean for the rest of 2020?
Different national weather agencies have different predictions.
Globally, 2020 is likely to rank in the top-10 hottest years with many believing it will secure a spot in the top-5.