You wouldn’t guess this from the UK’s weather, but world temperatures on land were the highest ever recorded for June. May was similarly record-breaking. The April to June quarter exceeded historic records for northern hemisphere land temperatures. Combined land and ocean figures make June the fourth hottest ever across the globe as a whole. As the cool water phase (El Nina) of the eastern Pacific drew to a close, world land temperatures have risen as expected in the last few months. The hot weather continues in July while Britain waits for a sight of the sun.
Many of us trying to communicate climate change issues have been approached by news media over the past few weeks asking whether the UK abysmal summer weather indicates that ‘the global warming scare’ is over. No, I say, the science remains exactly the same. In a warmer world weather may well become more erratic, more unusual. We should not pay much attention to episodes of unusual cold in Britain or elsewhere but focus on global averages. The last few months have been as warm, or warmer, than the past few years. Many places – on all continents - are experiencing record temperatures.
Somehow, this response simply doesn’t work. Journalists are not interested in extreme temperatures 1000 km away in Austria (highest ever June temperatures) or the US (records broken across most of the country). The only thing worth commenting on is that the UK has had the wettest June since record-keeping began and the coldest midsummer month since 1991. Humankind finds its very difficult to comprehend a global mean or a new record set in a strange and unknown part of the world.
A poll this week shows that Americans (experiencing hot weather on their continent) are agreeing with the climate change hypothesis in increasing numbers. But Britons drying their houses after repeated inundations understandably show no such belief. Truly it is going to be difficult to get any substantial global response to the climate change challenge.