UK Climate Projections 2018 – What should we expect?

What is the UKCP18?

On Monday the 26th November 2018, the UK Climate Projections 2018 (UKCP18) was launched which provides several tools and projections that investigate how the climate may change over the 21st Century. The projections are produced using computer models of the atmosphere and oceans which capture recent understandings of how the climate system works. The UKCP18 is made up of probabilistic projections over land and marine environments and give the UK it’s most comprehensive picture yet of the future climate. The tool forms part of the Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme which is supported by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

industrial activity emitting pollutants into the atmosphere

After the success of the UK Climate Projections 2009, UKCP18 has been developed to include the use of recent climate observations including more recent climate models from around the world and the results from the latest Met Office global and regional climate models. As it is not possible to give specific climate predictions, the UKCP18 sets out a range of possible climate outcomes over the next century based on different greenhouse gas emission rates. This highlights the fact that the extent of future climate change will be strongly affected by the level of greenhouse gas emissions that we choose to emit.

What did the analysis show?

From the initial analysis of UKCP18, it was found that:

  • The most recent decade (2008-2017) has been on average 0.3 °C warmer than the 1981-2010 average and 0.8 °C warmer than 1961-1990.
  • The top ten warmest years have all occurred since 1990.
  • In recent decades there has been an increase in annual average rainfall over the UK, especially over Scotland where the most recent decade (2008–2017) has been on average 11% wetter than 1961–1990 and 4% wetter than 1981-2010.

Global warming illustrated by Earth above a gas hob.

In the projections, there is an overall shift towards warmer wetter winters and hotter, drier summers, although natural variations will result in anomalies that don’t fit this trend. The observations made in the future will be dependent on both long-term climate trends and natural variability.

From analysing the high emission scenario in UKCP18, it was found that:

  • By 2070, summer and winter temperatures could be up to 5.4 °C and 4.2 °C warmer, respectively.
  • By 2070, average precipitation in summer could decrease by up to 47%, while in winter it could increase by up to 35%.
  • By mid-century, the probability of a summer as hot as 2018 could increase to 50%.
  • Sea levels in London could rise by up to 1.15 metres by 2100.

What does this mean?

It has been predicted that the UK’s coastal flood risk will increase under all the emission scenarios used in UKCP18, because of mean sea level rise. This will result in an increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme water levels around the UK coastline. This increase in coastal flood risk combined with a likely increase in precipitation in winter is likely to result in more frequent flooding in various parts of the UK. This emphasises the need for the integration of flood resistant and resilient measures further in future planning in the UK.

A storm surge over topping a coastal wall

Although the UKCP18’s estimated ranges have limitations and are based on various assumptions, the predictions can play an important part in future adaptation planning. The projections expectantly show that we can no longer hold the line, we must adapt, make space for water and minimise the costs and resources associated with flood recovery.

However, to ensure any plans put in place are suitable for future climates, awareness needs to be raised around flooding and the likely future climate prediction, especially among the younger generations. Research conducted by the Environment Agency found that those aged 18-34 are least likely to know their area’s flood risk and least likely to know how to protect their homes. Only 48% of under 35s would know what to do if a flood warning was issued. Increased awareness is needed to effectively make a change and reduce the impact of climate change.

To find out more about the UK Climate Projections 2018, click here.

To find out about the various adaptation methods available for buildings, click here.