‘Extreme’ marine heatwave brings sudden increase of around 4C to seas around UK and Ireland

19 June 2023, 13:05

An extreme heatwave has been identified in the waters around Britain's coastlines
An extreme heatwave has been identified in the waters around Britain's coastlines. Picture: Noaa

By Asher McShane

Seas around the UK and Ireland have become around 4C hotter in recent days, with the temperature increase being described as an ‘extreme’ marine heatwave.

The high water temperatures have sparked the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to describe parts of the North Sea as being in Category 4 Marine Heatwave (Extreme).

The sea is particularly warm off the UK's east coast from Durham to Aberdeen, and off north-west Ireland.

The Met Office says human-caused climate change is one part of the reason for the rise in temperature. Other natural factors are also contributing.

The increase in heat can kill fish and other sea life.

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People shelter in the shade under a tree on a hot and humid day in Wimbledon Common yesterday
People shelter in the shade under a tree on a hot and humid day in Wimbledon Common yesterday. Picture: Alamy

However Professor Albert Klein Tank, the head of the Met Office's Hadley climate research centre, does not believe the array of global temperature records signals that the Earth has passed some kind of climate tipping-point.

"All of these elements are part of natural variation within the climate system which are coming together to elevate sea-surface temperatures to higher levels", he said.

In early April, the temperature of the world’s ocean surface hit an all-time high.

Climate scientists said that preliminary data from Noaa shows the average temperature of the ocean’s surface has been at 21.1C since the start of April - beating the record of 21C set in 2016.

“The current trajectory looks like it’s headed off the charts, smashing previous records,” Prof Matthew England, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales, said at the time.

The world has experienced its hottest ever first eleven days of June.

Last week it for the first time ever, Earth's average air temperature was more than 1.5C hotter than before industrial times, according to the European Union's Copernicus Climate Change service (C3S).

In the UK, some areas will potentially hit 30C (86F) this weekend, the Met Office has said.

A yellow thunderstorm warning has been issued for Northern Ireland on Monday between 1pm and 8pm as 15 to 20mm of rain could fall in less than an hour.

Elsewhere, sunshine is expected for most of Monday but with some cloud and scattered showers in the North West, said Stephen Dixon, spokesman for the Met Office.

Overnight into Tuesday there will be heavy rain moving from the south of England to the North East, and southern and western parts of England could see 30mm of rain which would make for "uncomfortable driving conditions", Mr Dixon added.

Wednesday will be more of a showery day rather than persistent rain, but drier in the South East.

As of Thursday there will be some showers but temperatures will start to rise towards the weekend.

Mr Dixon said: "By Friday there's some possibility of rain in Northern Ireland, the west of England, it will be generally drier in the South East.

"The weekend could get up to the high 20s or low 30s, the South East will see the warmer weather.

"The week will be sitting relatively warmer for this time of year but more subdued than we've seen, but areas will hit heatwave criteria as we get to the weekend."

The hottest temperature of the year so far was 32.2C (89.9F) recorded on June 10 in Surrey, but the forecaster said the weather is not likely to reach that level this week. As of Monday morning, one flood warning is in place for the River Cole at Coleshill, Birmingham, from Cole End to Coleshill Industrial Estate.

And a total of six flood alerts have been issued, meaning flooding is possible.

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