UK heatwave: Britain records its warmest winter days ever, reaching 21C

It’s reached a balmy 21C in London — and somewhat predictably Brits are collectively losing it.

What would be considered a rather mild day in Australia has had British people complaining of heatwave conditions, wondering whether it’s a sign of an impending climate apocalypse and streaming to the beach and diving straight into the sea to cool down.

“The end is nigh,” said one person on social media. “Scarily hot” said another. Others have dubbed it “freaky February”.

Even Winnie the Pooh has been a casualty.

Hubris indeed. But in the Brits’ favour, to reach 21C in the dead of winter, when temperatures are lucky to crack double digits on the best of days, is almost unheard of.

The UK has sweltered, well not sweltered — perhaps just sweated a touch, through its two hottest winter’s day ever.”/>
media_cameraLondoners enjoy the afternoon sunshine on Primrose Hill overlooking the city. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.”/>
media_cameraA woman does a Sudoku puzzle in St James’ Park among the daffodils as the sun shines in central London in winter. Picture: Niklas Halle’n/AFP.”/>
media_cameraThe Pooh Sticks Bridge, in Ashdown Forest, made famous by A.A. Milne in the Winnie the Pooh stories. The forest was struck by a bush fire this week.

On Monday temperatures in west Wales topped out at 20.6C, exceeding the previous record high of 19.7C set in London in 1988.

Then Tuesday went one better as Kew Gardens in London, the city’s botanical gardens, reached 21.2C. That’s the temperature Londoners might expect in June.

The average February maximum temperature in London is usually just 8C dipping to 3C at night.

So hot has the winter heatwave been, a bush fire broke out in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. It’s better know by it’s other name of Hundred Acre Wood and is the setting for the Winnie the Pooh children books. Pooh and Tigger et al are believed to be safe. The honey has melted though.

Blazes were also reported in Cornwall, Scotland and Wales.

BBC weather presenter Tomasz Schafernaker said the level to which the mercury had soared was “utterly astonishing”.

It meant parts of Britain have been hotter than Malibu in California, Athens and Barcelona. The latter two are popular winter sun destinations for the British to escape the seasonal chill. That airfare would be a waste of money this week.

Weather wise, the hot spell has been caused by a stubborn area of high pressure that has led to settled conditions and in turn sucked up warm air from North Africa and the Canary Islands towards Western Europe.

It’s not just the UK. France and Ireland have also been abnormally hot while the Netherlands topped out at 17.8C, beating its previous record for the warmest February day.

One person on Twitter quipped that the low lying country, large chunks of which have been reclaimed from the sea, would soon be like Australia, “but underwater”.

The obvious question people are asking is whether the UK’s warm winter is a sign of climate change. The answer is yes. And also no.

Talking to the BBC, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University Dr Friedericke Otto said the recent weather system had several factors.

“There’s an element of climate change in these warm temperatures,” she said.

“But climate change alone is not causing it. You have to have the right weather systems too.”

Martin Bowles, a meteorologist at the Met Office, the UK’s equivalent of the Bureau of Meteorology, also said making a direct link between climate change and individual extreme weather events was tricky.

“We can’t blame climate change directly because we’re talking about weather, not the climate.

“But it is a sign of climate change. There’s been a gradual increase of temperatures over the last 30 years so the extreme weather has also been increasing,” he told The Guardian.

A year ago, things could not have been more different as, in some areas of the UK, the mercury fell as low as -11C.

Britain was smothered in snow as the famed “beast from the east”, basically some weather from Russia, arrived.

The Press Association has posted images on Twitter of the same locations 12 months apart showing the contrast between the frigid snowy and glorious sunshine.

But service is due to return to normal by the end of the week. A weather system over the cold Atlantic should bring temperatures down to around 11C in London and bring heavy showers.

Just how the Brits love it.

Originally published as ‘Scarily hot’: Brits struggle with 21C heatwave

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