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December was the wettest month on record for UK, Met Office says

Published 05/01/2016

York was one of many places flooded in the wettest month on record
York was one of many places flooded in the wettest month on record

December was the wettest month on record for the UK, provisional figures from the Met Office show.

The last month of 2015 was not only the wettest December on record, but the wettest calendar month overall in the records dating back to 1910.

It was also the UK's warmest December on record, with temperatures averaging 7.9C (46.2F), which is 4.1C (7.4F) above the long term average.

The month broke the record for the hottest average December by a full degree centigrade, beating the previous record set in 1934 of 6.9C, as the UK experienced temperatures closer to those normally seen in April or May.

The country saw almost double the amount of rainfall typically expected for the month with 230mm of rain - more than nine inches - falling on average across the UK.

Scotland and Wales had more than double their average rain for the month in December, while Northern Ireland experienced almost double the average, and England had 57% more rainfall than normal.

As the country was hit by storms and bands of heavy rain, clear, sunny days were in short supply, with less than three-quarters (73%) of the average number of hours of sunshine in December.

There was also virtually a complete lack of air frost across much of England, with the UK as a whole only experiencing an average of 2.6 days of frost in December - eight days below average.

Across 2015 as a whole, the year was the sixth wettest in the records dating back to 1910, largely due to unusually wet years in Scotland, Wales and north west England.

The average temperature of 9.2C (48.6F) for the UK in 2015 was "notably warm but not exceptional", falling short of 2014's record warmth, when temperatures averaged 9.9C (49.8F) across the year.

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: " This is yet another indicator that our climate is changing, and highlights the need for a radical rethink on UK flood defences and climate change policies.

"The Government must recognise that climate change will increase the frequency of extreme weather, such as the devastating flooding that has battered Britain recently.

"Adequate defences must be put in place to help the nation deal with this, and ecosystems restored so that rainwater is retained upstream.

"David Cameron's Government must also end its short-sighted support for climate-wrecking fossil fuels and put energy efficiency and renewable power at the heart of UK energy policy."

Scientists warned more winter rainfall, warmer temperatures and more extreme weather were expected consequences of climate change for the UK.

Prof Piers Forster, professor of climate change at the University of Leeds, said: "The record breaking wet and warm December is not just due to climate change but I am sure that man-made climate change played a significant role.

"Warmer, wetter winters with increases in extreme rainfall are entirely expected and predicted responses to climate change.

"Physics tells us that the 4.1C warmer December would bring 30% heavier extremes of 24 hour rainfall rates, and this is what we saw across much of the north of the UK."

Prof Meric Srokosz from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, said: "It is unsurprising that the UK is experiencing a warmer wetter winter, as this is what you would expect, and models predict, as the atmosphere warms and can hold more moisture.

"The effect is probably exacerbated by the strong El Nino currently occurring in the tropical Pacific which affects global weather patterns."

Prof David Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said: " Temperature and rainfall records will inevitably tumble as climate change intensifies."

While warmer, wetter winters, and hotter, drier summers were predicted for the UK, increasingly extreme weather was more important than changing averages.

"It is the increasingly extreme rainfall events, storm surges, heatwaves and droughts that will truly test our resilience to climate change. On the evidence of the past month we are far from prepared," he warned.

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