‘Scotland must prepare for hot weather extremes’

Scots are known for their obsession with talking about the country’s weather – and that’s not likely to change any time soon. However, instead of complaining about summers being too cold, wet and dreich, we are likely to be moaning about searing heat and sweaty conditions in the not too distant future.

The warning comes from scientists who are predicting that temperatures of about 30C are set to become the new norm in Scotland. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
The warning comes from scientists who are predicting that temperatures of about 30C are set to become the new norm in Scotland. Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

The warning comes from scientists who are predicting that temperatures of about 30C are set to become the new norm in Scotland. They say we should prepare for more frequent heatwaves as dry, hot summers – similar to the one the country experienced in 2018 – will become a regular occurrence.

Analysis of UK climate projections by researchers at Edinburgh and Oxford universities and the Met Office suggest a substantial increase in the likelihood of temperatures reaching 2018’s levels over the next three decades.

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The country experienced unusually hot conditions that summer, with thermometers hitting a near-record high of 31.9C at Bishopton in Renfrewshire on 29 June.

The searing heat saw the roof of Glasgow Science Centre begin to melt during a week that each day saw a UK record set for the hottest day of the year.

It was the first time since 2013 that temperatures had reached 30C at the same time in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Met Office said.

An even higher temperature of 33.2C was measured at Strathclyde Park in Motherwell in June 2018 but this was not accepted as a record by the Met Office, due to fears the equipment could have been affected by a nearby parked vehicle.

Scotland’s highest official temperature is 32.9C, recorded at Greycrook in Roxburghshire in August 2003.

Unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut substantially, the researchers have said it is possible every summer towards the end of the century may be as hot as 2018’s.

Human influences have made high temperatures more likely, the researchers said, adding that their findings indicate the need to start sustainable long-term planning now to deal with heatwaves in Scotland induced by climate change.

The Edinburgh team interviewed a number of those who dealt with the impact of the 2018 heatwave, which involved special measures such as water being distributed by tanker and railway lines being painted white to prevent them from buckling.

The team also analysed media coverage of the heatwave at the time, concluding that Scotland had been largely able to cope with the hot weather but it had caused some difficulty.

Many interviewees said successive years of such heatwaves would prove very challenging, particularly given the substantial costs involved in mitigation measures.

Lead researcher Professor Simon Tett, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Despite its cool climate, Scotland must start to prepare now for the impact of high-temperature extremes.

“The bottom line is that heatwaves have become more likely because of human-induced climate change.”

International weather data shows that 2016 has been the hottest year worldwide since records began, with last year coming a close second.

The Earth’s five warmest years have all happened since 2015, with nine of the 10 warmest since 2005.

Met Office forecasters have recently cautioned that the next five years will be even hotter, with a highest temperature likely to be set and average global temperature expected to reach between 1.15C and 1.46C above pre-industrial levels.

International climate experts have agreed that warming of more than 2C will cause irreversible and catastrophic climate change.

Nearly 100 countries signed up to the Paris Agreement in 2015, pledging to cut emissions in an attempt to restrict warming to 1.5C or below.

The new study was funded by ClimateXchange.