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Discussion > What would 2°C warming actually feel like?

I have been curious for some time about what it might feel like to reach 2°C global warming - in fact ever since we were exhorted to dig up our garden and to re-plant it Mediterranean style (advice I ignored, fortunately, and now quietly forgotten by the media).

As it is generally assumed that just over 1°C of warming, from today, will take us to that 2°C threshold of warming since pre-industrial times, I have looked to see what locations in the UK differed by 1°C over the most recent 30-year climate period documented by the Met Office.

In the blog post here I have mapped all 302 of the the Met Office's climate stations and connected the stations that differed in mean maximum temperature by exactly 1°C over the period 1981-2010.

The results surprised me. I suspect they would surprise the residents of Bognor Regis, for example, to find that at the threshold of dangerous global warming their mean Tmax would be only the same as that experienced 17 miles inland at North Heath in the period 1981-2010. Not quite Costa del Sol temperatures.

In other examples, a 1°C warming from today would be like moving from:

- Hillsborough to Belfast Newforge (9 miles)
- Hampstead to Greenwich Observatory (9.5 miles)
- Morecambe to Myerscough College (16 miles);
- St Catherine’s Point, Isle of Wight to Solent (16.5 miles);
- Blackburn, Scotland to Falkirk (12 miles);
- Albemarle Barracks near Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Carlisle (43 miles);
- or the 22 miles from Birmingham University to Pershore near Worcester.

See the blog post for more connections.

I would appreciate any comments here on whether you think this sort of analysis is useful, especially for those unfamiliar with the 2°C policy threshold and what it might feel like to reach it.

Feb 28, 2015 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterAl Zephron

On a day to day basis we would not even notice a 1 deg C warming in the UK.

Mar 1, 2015 at 11:02 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Bring it on, past warm periods are known as Climate Optimums for good reason. The equatorial regions stay at the same temps and the rest just get a bit warmer, but as the range you experience in one day is many times larger than the movement in the avg annual temps you will not notice.

Mar 1, 2015 at 2:45 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

The point of my post is that an x°C change in the weather has a different meaning from an x°C change in the climate. We often experience a 10°C change in temperature on a daily basis, but I don't think it is contentious to say that a 10°C change in the climate would be fairly dramatic.

So, while we can visualise an x°C change in the weather, we have little experience in visualising a change in the climate of the same magnitude. The post is meant to be an aid to doing that, and to show that the climate of many locations within 50 miles of each other varies by the 1°C increment that is supposed to bring the world to the threshold of dangerous climate change.

Mar 1, 2015 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterAl Zephron

A change in Climate is just a change in a much larger collection of weather days, why would it not be that in a std climate (whatever that is, I doubt it exists) you get so many rainy days, so many sunny days, warm days, frosty days and snow lying for so many days in a typical year. A 1C warmer climate just changes the mix of these weather days sometimes in a weird way. However not much danger in a warmer climate killing more people, just the opposite. All the data suggests the exact opposite of the 'Approved Storyline', a warmer climate reduces the temp differential between the equator and the poles, so you get less hurricanes, less storms and a calmer climate. If the next cold mini ice age is coming as indicated by sun spot activity then we need to be worried about 2C changes in temps.

Mar 1, 2015 at 7:14 PM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

Al Zephron, I totally agree even +2'C makes little difference, although -2'C is a different story.

Speaking from personnel experience I moved from Perthshire to Derby to Limousin, this involved changes in average temperature using the nearest town

Perth -> Derby +2'C in summer
Derby -> Limoges +2'C in summer

Perth -> Derby +2.5'C in winter
Derby -> Limoges -2'C in winter (colder in Limousin than Derby take note George Osborne)

I don't live in Limoges and I didn't live in Perth but in a rural area, so the change from Perth to Derby would have been greater in both summer and winter and less for Derby to Limousin in summer. The change from Derby to Limousin in winter is actually the greatest magnitude but negative.

Of the changes the only ones which have had an impact are the winter temperature Derby to Limoges and to a lesser extent summer Perth to Derby. The summer change took a couple of summers to get acclimatised to. I don't think that I'll ever be happy with Limousin winter temperatures which are pretty much what I left behind in Perth many years ago. In summer I find the hot summer afternoons very relaxing, find a nice bit of shade read a book, have a float in the swimming pool, have a cup tea have a doze, fire up the BBQ.

Tomatoes grow happily outside, my brother in Perthshire gave up on tomatoes even in a glass house years ago.

So from the evidence if all areas have a 2'C rise I'll be living in the equivalent of Bordeaux, which is quite tolerable.

The biggest danger to well being is coping with extremes of heat or cold where you have no previous experience of dealing with the conditions.

Mar 1, 2015 at 8:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

A couple of years ago the Met Office's "My Climate and Me" website had an explanation as to why a rise in mean temperature of (say) 2°C would make a bigger difference than what you might think. I'll see if I recorded what it said when I'm back home though I doubt that I did. I think that those pages were deleted a long time ago.

It was along the lines that shifting a bell-shaped curve to the right resulted in a bigger increase in very hot days than you might have imagined from the change in the mean.

Mar 1, 2015 at 8:12 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A, thanks, I recall that explanation of an increase in mean temperature shifting the bell-shaped distribution of temperatures to the right, and so increasing the relative frequency of hot days. It is certainly an assertion that is made in the IPCC Summary for Policymakers, and if we have indeed had nearly 1°C warming already since pre-industrial times then it should be obvious in the historical record.

On the other hand, Judith Curry in a submission to the US Senate shows in her figure 4 that there has been no overall trend in the number of daily record high Tmax values, except for a strong maximum in the 1930s. That data is for the US, but I haven't seen an equivalent graph for the UK. I would be very interested if anyone has a link to one.

Mar 2, 2015 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterAl Zephron

Al Zephron
If you follow Steve Goddard's blog you'll be aware that in the USA they've had a change in hot days since the 1930s currently considerably fewer than then. So a return to the heat of the 1930s would most likely mean a return to the Dustbowl in the Midwest. After their last two winters it's an interesting question which they would find preferable and in which areas.

Mar 2, 2015 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandys

It was along the lines that shifting a bell-shaped curve to the right resulted in a bigger increase in very hot days than you might have imagined from the change in the mean.

Mar 1, 2015 at 8:12 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

You would assume this but there is no evidence to back this assertion from the MET office, other than it helps in their climate weirding/extremes story. There is no data on temps following a inverted bell curve but if it follows hurricanes and other extreme weather events data then the theory is wrong as these events decrease in a warming climate.

For the US their temp records show that despite the warming T Max events are still much lower than during the 30's where they were higher. What that tells you is open to debate, could it be that during the 30's there was real warming but today's is a figment of Homogenising of the data or that today's higher temps are from Urban heating and this does not raise T Max.

Mar 2, 2015 at 9:14 AM | Registered CommenterBreath of Fresh Air

I guess one could do the same analysis with altitude instead of latitude.
Sales of stacked heels would boom as people tried to maintain a constant climate.

Mar 15, 2015 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

During my long life I have lived (from North to South) at Oban: Worksop: Birmingham: Bedford: London and now western France. I am a keen gardener and managed to grow all the essential crops in all places despite the more than 2°C difference in temperatures. Tomatoes in Oban were a problem, not because of temperature but lack of light during the short growing season.

Techniques and choice of seed had to change, but that is something I could easily cope with, even though there were step changes with each move. A gradual rise in temperature would pose no (or very few) problems.

Apr 5, 2015 at 8:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn de Melle