Natural England - What climate change has already happened?

What climate change has already happened?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) pulls together all the latest information on climate change and uses the expertise of thousands of scientists worldwide to come to an agreement on its implications.

Global changes

The latest IPCC report, published in 2007, provided a summary of the changes in climate that have been seen worldwide so far. These included:

  • Global average temperatures have risen by nearly 0.8 ºC since the late 19th century.
  • Global temperatures have risen fastest in the past 25 years, by about 0.5 ºC.
  • Eleven of the past twelve years up to 2006 rank among the warmest twelve years on record.
  • The extent of arctic sea-ice is reducing and recent research suggests that the arctic could be ice-free in the summer as early as 2013.
  • Mountain glaciers are retreating worldwide.
  • Sea level is rising by 3.1 mm per year (since 1993) due to thermal expansion of water, melting glaciers and icecaps.
  • Heavy rainfall events have increased.
  • Droughts in the tropics have increased in intensity and duration.

Changes in England

The UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) produces similar reports to the IPCC, but covering just the UK. The latest report, in 2008, shows that:

  • The Central England Temperature record, which started in 1659 and is the longest continuous temperature record in existence, has risen by about 1 ºC since 1980.
  • Summer rainfall has decreased in recent years.
  • Winter rainfall tends to include more 'heavy precipitation events' than before.
  • Sea surface temperatures have risen by 0.7 ºC over the past thirty years.