UK climate continues to change in 2021 - Met Office

The latest annual report shows the continuation of warmer than average years and increasing rate of sea level rise around the UK.

The State of the UK Climate 2021 report reviews the climate and significant meteorological events of the year across the UK. This year’s report continues to show the impact of global temperature rises on the climate in the UK, reaffirming that climate change is not just a problem for the future and that it is already influencing the conditions we experience here at home.


In what was in some regards a relatively unremarkable year in the UK’s recent climatology, the maximum temperature recorded in 2021 was 32.2°C. Compared to years from recent decades this was a relatively low peak temperature, but is still considerably warmer than the average hottest day of the year for the period 1961-1990 of 31.4°C.

In a changing climate we expect variability from year-to-year, but cooler conditions of today are warm relative to past climates, as indicated in the annual mean temperature graph below. While the year 2021 would be considered near normal compared to the last three decades, before 1990 a year like this would be the second warmest in our national series that began in 1884.

Winter and spring were both near-normal compared to the climate of a few decades ago (1961-1990) but summer and autumn were much warmer (+1.5°C, +1.8°C). The UK continues to warm on a rate broadly consistent with, but slightly higher than, global temperature increases, with the most recent decade 1.0°C warmer than the 1961-1990 climate period. 2021 was the UK’s 18th warmest year in a series dating back to 1884.

Mike Kendon, from the Met Office National Climate Information Centre and lead author of the report, said: “As ever the weather we experienced in 2021 was highly variable, with extreme events like Storm Arwen bringing impacts to our daily lives. When considering the UK climate over the whole year it might seem rather unremarkable, however it is telling that whereas we consider 2021 as near-average for temperature in the context of the current climate, had this occurred just over three decades ago it would have been one of the UK’s warmest years on record. Although 1°C of warming might not sound like much, it has led to maximum temperatures like the 32.2°C we saw in 2021 becoming routine rather than the exception. This is particularly stark when considering the record breaking heat the UK experienced just last week.”

The report details notable weather events from 2021, putting them into the context of the UK’s climate. Events such as Storm Arwen in November, Storm Darcy in February, a new Northern Ireland temperature record in July and exceptional rain in October are all reviewed.

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Posted On: 28/07/2022

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