There is no winter in the UK any more, experts claim
WINTER is disappearing as a season in Britain, with milder weather continuing from autumn into spring, experts said yesterday.
The curator of Kew Gardens in London said winter had disappeared altogether, with some trees flowering "months earlier than the norm", while a botanical colleague in Edinburgh reported winter conditions lasting just a week so far.
Dr Nigel Taylor, of Kew, said plants were responding to a climate that was "behaving very strangely" – English hawthorn had already started growing its leaves, while the common ash was already in flower.
Yesterday Scotland saw temperatures more commonly of associated with summer. In Glasgow and Aberdeen it was 11C, while Edinburgh soared to a balmy 14C, comparable to the average maximum in July.
The Met Office also reported that last month was the wettest January on record for eastern Scotland.
Climate change is expected to bring winters that are both milder and wetter to Scotland. Dr Taylor said he was surprised to see native British species – used to wide variations in temperatures during the seasons – reacting as if winter was over.
"I was shocked to see these kinds of things leafing and flowering, and to do so at the risk of damage from frost and winter weather," he said. "No-one predicted winter was finished, but the behaviour of these plants shows winter has ended.
"Over the last 12 months there has been no winter. Last year was extraordinary, spring was in January, April was summer, the summer was cool then it was warmer and sunny in autumn.
"There is no winter anymore. Despite a cold snap before Christmas it is nothing like when I was younger. People are growing bananas outdoors now – my neighbour has had bananas coming to fruit. A lot of plants we now take for granted would not have survived the winter of 1963, which was the last proper winter."
And David Knott, curator of the outdoor living collections at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, said: "The only winter we have had this year was the week immediately prior to Christmas, when there was a sustained spell of frosty days. We are beginning to notice some buds swelling in the garden … today daffodils are in flower in East Lothian and we have got rhododendrons in flower just now."
He said he was worried that the weather seemed to be changing at an increasing rate: "We can adapt to the pace of change, but the woody plants … you do wonder whether they can cope with the pace of change."
Helen Chivers, a forecaster at the Met Office, said the average temperature in December and January had been about one degree higher than the average for 1971-2000 and January in eastern Scotland had been the wettest on record.
"If you think on a broader scale, the climate change sort of scale, you would expect warmer, wetter winters," she said. "Last winter was a warm winter and it looks like this one is heading the same way. Although climate change cannot be judged on a couple of years, the warmer winters we have had recently would fit into that sort of pattern.
"In 1963, everything was covered in snow and I remember in the 1980s we had snow. But it's difficult to say winter has disappeared … it depends on what you take to be winter."
IN SEARCH OF SPRINGTIME
THE age-old signs of spring, which does not officially arrive until the Equinox on 20 March, are beginning to sprout months earlier than the norm.
Many flowers are already in bloom and we are looking for early examples spotted by readers of The Scotsman. Look out for unexpected seasonal changes in your garden or out in the wild and send stories or pictures to earlyspring@ scotsman.com
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West