A look back at the UK's notable weather events in 2022, the year of numerous records broken, most notably the warmest year on record and the first time 40C has been reached.
The Met Office have confirmed today that last year was the UK’s warmest year on record and the first time the annual temperature has reached more than 10C in records that go back to 1884, surpassing the previous all-time high of 9.88C in 2014.
The Met Office says, the chance of such a temperature has increased from once in every 500 years to once in every 3 or 4 years, due to human induced climate chance – making 160 times more likely
Every nation in the UK recorded a record breaking annual mean temperature in 2022, this undoubtedly helped by the exceptional heatwave in July, when 40C was reached for the first time in recorded history in the UK along with the warmest night ever recorded and national temperature records were broken too within the UK.
The July heatwave was one of a few notable weather events in 2022, but the most extreme in terms of records broken. I will look back at the extreme heat in summer 2022 but also other notable events, such warmest New Year’s Day on record; Storm Eunice in February, one of the warmest autumns on record; some notably late thundery weather for late autumn; also a cold spell in early December, which made it the coldest December spell since 2010, but wasn’t enough to stop last year being the warmest year on record.
A record high temperature for New Year's Day, with 16.3C recorded at St James's Park in London, beating the previous record from 1916. Also, the same day, a new UK highest daily minimum temperatures record for January was set, with a minimum of 13.2 °C at Chivenor, Devon. The previous day 16.8C was recorded at Colwyn Bay, Wales – making it the warmest New Year’s Eve on record. The very mild weather at the end of December 2021 and beginning of the New Year was thanks to a flow of exceptionally mild tropical maritime air from the Azores.
It was very stormy mid-February, with two powerful storms in one week. Storm Eunice arrived hot on the heels of Storm Dudley a few days before. Storm Dudley, named Ylenia by the German Meteorological Service, affected mostly southern Scotland, parts of Wales, and northern England, with winds of 101 mph recorded. The storm also impacted Belgium on Wednesday before spreading into the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Poland on Thursday – where it caused greater impacts
But it was Storm Eunice a few days later on the Friday that packed a greater punch and forced the Met Office to issue two rare red warnings for wind across southern England, London and south Wales. The red warning areas indicated a significant danger to life as extremely strong winds provide the potential for damage to structures and flying debris. Eunice was estimated to be the strongest storm since the Burns Day Storm of 1990 in the south, with a record gust for England of 122 mph recorded at the Needles on the Isle of Wight. Sadly four people died. About a third of the UK population – about 20 million people – were told to stay at home as the storm’s high winds caused severe disruption, huge structural damage, transport chaos and widespread power cuts. About 435,000 homes were left without power by the Friday evening. Hundreds of train services and flights were cancelled, and major roads closed.
The UK record maximum temperature is broken again only 3 years after it was broken with 38.7C at Cambridge in July 2019. But this time by quite some margin, with over 40 ºC for the first time in recorded history. 40.3C was recorded at Coningsby in Lincolnshire on Tuesday 19th July, closely followed by 40.2C at Heathrow, and several other places over 40C. Also on the same day, the Scottish record is broken, with 35.1 at Floors Castle in Roxburghshire.
The extreme heat was thanks to a slow-moving cut-off low west of Iberia – which acted as heat pump, sucking intense hot air out of northwest Africa across western Europe over the weekend prior before reaching the UK on the Monday and Tuesday when the intense heat peaked. Intense high pressure over central Europe also helping drive intense heat north on its western side.
Britain never recorded a 100-degree temperature before 2003, but 100F was exceeded again in July 2019 and then on Monday 18th July 2022 as the extreme heat set in, with Santon Downham in Suffolk reaching 38.1C (100F). Wales saw its hottest day on record on the 18th, with 37.1C reached at Harwarden, also Jersey saw its hottest day since records began, with 37.9C. These temperatures then led to the warmest night on record, with temperatures not falling below 25°C in a few places, exceeding the previous highest daily minimum record of 23.9°C, recorded in Brighton on 3rd August 1990. The temperature didn’t fall below 25.8°C at Kenley airport, south London, and 25.9°C at Emley Moor, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
Summer 2022 was the equal joint hottest on record (with 2018), and was also very dry (the fifth driest since 1836 in England).
November 2022 was 1.8C above average, which has made it the third warmest on record, behind only 2006 and 2011, according to the Met Office. 21.2 C recorded in Wales in mid-November, the highest temperature ever recorded so late in the year. The warm weather was thanks to prolonged southwesterly winds. Nights were warm during the month, with new highest monthly temperature records set in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which saw overnight lows of 14.6C and 14.5C respectively on 11th November. The warm November followed above-average October and September and meant some places saw a frost-free autumn, most of south-east England and East Anglia remained frost-free, and Wisley in Surrey had its first frost-free autumn on record.
The late warmth in 2022 lead to what horticulturists have termed as a ‘second spring’ due to the warm and wet conditions prolonging blooms or even leading to plants to bud and burst into flower several months too early thinking it’s the following spring.
It was also unusually thundery during late October and early November - with low pressure parked close to the west or southwest of the UK, bringing widespread thundery downpours. The 23rd of October was most notably thundery, with a band of torrential rain, frequent lightning, squally and locally damaging winds sweeping across large parts of southern England, with three tornadoes reported.
The first two weeks of December were the coldest start to meteorological winter since 2010, with high pressure to the northwest and a cool northerly airflow resulting in a prolonged spell of low temperatures with snow and icy conditions at times, along with interludes of clear skies at night allowing temperature to fall as low -17.3C at Braemar on the morning of the 13th following a maximum temperature of just -9.3C the day before. But this cold spell wasn’t enough to stop 2022 being the warmest year on record in the UK.