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UK Temperature Trends

July 19, 2012

By Paul Homewood




According to the Met Office, mean temperatures in the UK last year averaged 9.6C, 1.0C above the 1971-2000 baseline. But what does this tell us about the long term trends?


A look at the Met’s temperature graph is a good place to start, as shown in Figure 1.



Figure 1

We can see straight away that the 1970’s marked a cooler phase, following a warmer period in the 1940’s and 1950’s, so the use of a 1971-2000 baseline can be misleading. A baseline of 1981-2010, for instance would yield an average of 8.9C, instead of 8.6C. It is also worth pointing out that, based on the six months to June, the mean temperature is likely to finish the year around 9.1C, not significantly high, and lower than most years in the last decade.

We can get a better idea of the trend by looking at a five year running average.


climate card temps_htm_7c118685

Figure 2

The Met record starts in 1910 and since then there has been a gradual increase around the trend line. The years between 1960 and 1990 dipped below the trend, followed by a warmer interlude. In the last two years, however, we have seen temperatures returning to the long term trend. This can be seen more clearly in Figure 3, which focuses on the last couple of decades.


climate card temps_htm_m2d75d23b

Figure 3

However, let’s take a longer perspective. The CET (Central England Temperature) Record goes back to 1659. The temperatures are, of course, just for England, and therefore are not directly comparable with the UK figures above. Figure 4 again shows five year running averages.


CET MEANS_htm_m1e2281f3

Figure 4

A couple of things stand out.

1) The figure for 2011 is only very slightly above the trend line. Remember these are five year running averages.

2) Temperatures in the 1730’s were pretty much the same as now. For several years in that decade, the five year average reached 10.0C, with the temperature in 1733 itself recorded at 10.5C. In comparison, the five year average still stands at 10.0C, and the warmest year on record, 2006, was only 10.8C. One could be excused for wondering what the all the fuss is about!

I would also invite readers to compare Figure 4 with the graph at the top, which is the CET graph that the Met show prominently on their website. Spot the difference? Even though the CET record starts in 1659, the Met have deliberately chosen to start their graph from 1772. It is surely no coincidence that this was around the time when lower temperatures became prevalent again. Could it be that the Met are not keen on people discovering that, 280 years ago, it was as warm as it is now? I cannot divine their intentions, but surely this is not something real scientists do?



It would be reasonable to assume that higher temperatures have led to more intense heatwaves. According to the UK Climate Impacts Programme, the body set up by the UK government, “An increase in frequency of heatwaves is one of the effects of climate change we have already experienced in the UK”. But what do the facts tell us?

Sheffield is, geographically, fairly representative of England as a whole, being centrally positioned. Daily temperature data supplied by the Met Office gives the following distribution of days when the maximum temperature reached 30.0C or more.


SHEFFIELD 50 TOP TEMPS_htm_242fd56b

Figure 5

As can be seen, there has been nothing unusual happening in the last decade. The two hottest days on the record, which goes back to 1930. were 2nd and 3rd August 1990, when the mercury reached 33.4 and 34.3C respectively. The summer of 1975 also stands out, when, on five days, temperatures exceeded 30C. Apart from 2006, the last decade has been noticeably lacking in heatwaves, as Figure 6 amply shows.

It will come as no surprise that the UK Climate Impacts Programme have used the 1960’s as the starting point for their comparisons. It is, of course, a common tactic.



Figure 6


I would also like to show the Met’s graph for sunshine hours.




Figure 7

Now where have we seen this shape before? Why, surprise, surprise! Temperature are higher when the amount of sunshine increases, and fall when it decreases. Now who would have thought that? Instead of trying to link climate to CO2, maybe the Met Office should spend a bit more time looking into the effects of sun and clouds.

  1. Brian H permalink
    July 19, 2012 11:36 pm

    Obviously heatwaves cause the clouds to go away and let the sun shine in! The graphs prove it.

  2. July 24, 2012 9:52 pm

    This from twitter:

    @ScotClimate: Scottish Government found to have lied on key figure. Is the Scottish Climate Bill dead?. Will the minister resign?

    The Scottish government lied to politicians about key financial data which was central to the argument for the bill when they passed the Scottish Climate Change Bill. The government citing Stern said that the economic cost of a 2-3°C rise would be “between 5-20% of GDP”. In fact Stern suggests there may not be any net economic harm quoting figures of 0-3%

    The figures are so key to justifying the bill, that it really is difficult to see how this bill could withstand a legal challenge.

    … but the scandal gets worse. The Scottish paper (The Courier) which broke this story seems to have been lent on to remove the story. Presumably by someone in government.

    This is about as bad as we can get. It appears the world’s most enthusiastic government for climate change is now embroiled in lies & cover-up.

    • Brian H permalink
      August 5, 2012 1:15 am

      Posted on WUWT Tips&Notes.

  3. Sleepalot permalink
    July 25, 2012 1:59 pm

    Who chose the unreadable timescale on Fig. 4?

    • August 4, 2012 6:18 pm

      It starts in 1663, at the start of the CET record. (CET starts 1659, but the first 5 yr average is obviously 5 years after). I have changed the graphic to make more legible.

  4. Sparks permalink
    August 5, 2012 7:32 pm

    Good job Paul;

    “Instead of trying to link climate to CO2, maybe the Met Office should spend a bit more time looking into the effects of sun and clouds.”

    Is it realy that obvious now, lol

  5. Mr J Moore permalink
    January 19, 2013 6:02 pm

    An excellent job, Paul. This is the sort of reliable scientific evidence that supports what the majority of us already suspected. A pity that it is not being publicised as strongly as the flawed arguements that we are being bombarded with by misguided politicians and the “scientsts” who trying to justify continued funding for their flawed work. In the meantime, we are paying dearly for unnecessary environmental charges on our energy bills, and the desecration of our countryside and seascapes by hideous wind turbines.

  6. August 3, 2013 8:29 pm

    Has anybody else noticed that the ‘hockey stick’ did not appear until after the IPCC was formed in 1988 – and that temperatures did not rise in the UK until then in 1988.

    Indeed – at the time the UK climate was going into serious cooling since WW2 – strange they could predict the massive reversal.

    Also that your first chart from the Met Office of CET temperatures starts 1772 (until 2nd August 2013) – why is that?

    Is it because the temperatures were much higher before this date?

    So why 1772 – is this the ‘cherry picking’ that the man-made warmers talk about?

    • August 3, 2013 9:51 pm

      This is how the CET graph looks for the full period.

      The recent rise does not look so unusual.

      • August 3, 2013 11:51 pm

        The Met Office graph cuts off the data prior to 1772 – saying before then “instrumental records fail to overlap” – like data was somehow unreliable.

        However, Gordon Manley actually states: “For the first six decades to 1720 the figures are printed in italics as an indication that they must be considered less reliable..”.

        So they could have used post 1720 data – perhaps then it was cut because it showed higher temperatures – it would not show a hockey stick but a bow instead.

        Here is what it looks like with data from 1720:

        It can be seen using CET data that the climate has been hotter in the past.

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