How the UK's climate has changed over 60 years

Published 07 January 2022

Climate change and renewables
Badly flooded field

New analysis shows that the shift in the UK’s climate has happened more quickly in some regions than others. 

The Met Office compared two 30-year periods (1961-1990 and 1991-2020) and found average increases of 0.8°C in temperature, 7.3% in rainfall and 5.6% in sunshine.

Differing temperature rises 

Temperature rise has been greatest across parts of central and eastern England where temperatures have increased by more than 1°C in some locations including Bedfordshire and Leicestershire.

Further north in Scotland and Northern Ireland temperatures rises have been closer to 0.7°C.

Increased rainfall

Other findings include:

  • Annual average rainfall has increased by more than 10% between the two periods across parts of south-west England and Wales. South Yorkshire has seen the smallest rise by volume with a rise of just over 14mm per year.
  • The number of days with 1mm or more of rain a year has increased by an average of 5.6 days.
  • The locations seeing the greatest annual percentage increases in sunshine have been in north-eastern and eastern England (increasing by more than 13%).
  • The number of days of air frost (when the air temperature drops below 0°C) has reduced on average by 11.1 days. Many areas have seen a fall by 14 days per year, including Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Northumberland, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and Staffordshire.

UK temperature and sunshine levels were fairly close to the long-term average and rainfall slightly below.

But what does ‘average’ mean? Compared to mean temperatures from 1991 to 2020, our climate is warming, which means it is close to 1°C warmer than the earlier 1961-1990 baseline.

Visit the Met Office website to see the statistics for each quarter of 2021 and the regional variation within the UK: 2021: the UK's weather in review

Benchmarks

Measurement of climate against 30-year ‘averaging’ periods is in line with World Meteorological Organisation. They are benchmarks against which weather and climate records can be compared to provide context and a baseline for future climate projections.

Average temperatures

The head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, Dr Mark McCarthy, said: “The average temperature between 1991-2020 in Hull has been warmer on average than Heathrow was during the previous climate averaging period 1961-1990.

"So average temperatures previously limited to London and parts of the far south of England are now experienced as much as 250 km (155 miles) further north.”

Ask us a question about this page

Once you have submitted your query our NFU CallFirst team will contact you and, if appropriate, your question will be passed on to one of our policy teams.

By completing the form with your details on this page, you are agreeing to have this information sent to the NFU for the purposes of contacting you regarding your enquiry. Please take time to read the NFU’s Privacy Policy if you require further information.