Why the climate crisis is harder to spot in the UK and US

·1-min read
<span>Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA</span>
Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

The data tells us that climate change is real, but sometimes the feeling on the ground is far from convincing. A spell of hot weather can always be compared to a similar spell of hot weather from way back in the past. Similarly a big storm, intense rain and flooding often have parallels from long ago. Now a study in Geophysical Research Letters reveals that the signs of climate change are harder to spot in mid-latitude countries such as the UK and US, and easier to see in the tropics.

Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, and colleagues compared global mean temperature fluctuations with local temperature fluctuations for different parts of the world. They show that while the global average temperature has wiggled smoothly upwards, a mid-latitude location such as Oxford in the UK has always had wild swings in temperature. “Climate change impacts in some countries are being hidden by their own changeable weather,” writes Hawkins. By contrast increasing temperatures in tropical regions are more obvious because the background climate is steadier in these regions.

When it comes to rainfall, the data reveals a clear signal of increasing extremes, masked in mean rainfall plots. Large parts of the UK have now experienced exceptional deluges, incomparable to historic records.