How accurate is our perception of recently experienced weather and temperature? For those of us in the UK (and some parts of Europe) June 2016 was cold and miserable right?
I was prompted to write this article in response to a comment I received to one of my posts on Facebook. In the post I quoted a paragraph from a recent NOAA article:
The June 2016 mean temperature across the United Kingdom was 13.9°C (57.0°F) or 0.9°C (1.6°F) above the 1981–2010 average. The warmer-than-average value was mainly driven by extremely warm nighttime temperatures. The nation’s averaged minimum temperature tied as the highest since national records began in 1910. Regionally, England and Wales also had the highest (or joint highest) average minimum temperature since 1910
In a similar sentiment as that expressed by my correspondent, surely this can’t be right can it? I mean we all remember 1976 as an incredibly hot summer, and there have several really warm and sunny ones since then haven’t there? In 1976 I was taking my ‘O’ level exams and people were passing out in the exam rooms!
Let’s look at what the Met Office temperature data actually tell us. I downloaded the data from here, put it into Excel and created some charts. Below is a chart of the top 30 years with the warmest average minimum temperatures in the UK for the month of June.
It can be seen that 2016 is tied equal 1st with 2003 with an average minimum temperature of 10.1 C. Interestingly, 1976 comes 3rd. Also note that 12 out of the top 30 years are since the year 2000, and 19 are since the year 1980.
Now let’s look at the average mean temperatures:
We can see that 2016 is the 14th warmest year, and 1976 is the warmest. But, even so, 14th – that’s not too far down the rankings is it? We might have expected, from our perceptions alone, that 2016 would not to make the top 30 at all!
Apart from the point that we can’t trust our perceptions or our anecdotal stories, we should not draw too many conclusions about climate change on a global scale from our narrow, regional, experiences from where we happen to live.
For a good summary of the global temperature records that are being shattered month by month see here
and finally, this from NASA