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Posted at 01:33 PM ET, 03/26/2012

United Kingdom experiences unseasonably warm March weather; record in Scotland

People jog past a blossoming tree in a park in central London on March 26, 2012. (MIGUEL MEDINA - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Just as the record-smashing heat wave faded away from the Great Lakes, Midwest and Northeast, unseasonably warm weather has moved into the United Kingdom (UK). The UK Met Office reports Scotland set a new record high temperature for March of 22.8 C (73 F) on Sunday.

The Scotland record was set at Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire, passing the previous March high of 22.2C (72 F) set in 1965

Temperatures have been more than 10 degrees C (18 F) above average in much of the UK since warm weather moved in this past weekend. It is expected to continue through Wednesday.

UK visible satellite image from 0900 GMT 26 March 2012. (UK Met Office/EUMETSAT)
A large area of high pressure that settled over the British Isles is the culprit for the heat wave. It has fostered sunny skies and drawn in mild winds from continental Europe, the Mediterranean and north Africa.

The unseasonably warm weather - not as intense or widespread as the U.S. heat wave last week - has been primarily confined to Britain.

“The UK continued to be warmer than more southerly parts of continental Europe, including Barcelona, Nice, Majorca and Faro in Portugal - none of which saw temperatures in the 20s,” reports Sky News.

Britain’s cherry blossoms - like those in Washington, D.C. - have responded to the warmth with an unusually early bloom.

Reports the UK Daily Mail:

The unusually high temperatures of 21C have helped the beautiful pink and white buds open more than a month early all over the country. The spectacular blossom, which is usually associated with Easter, is already brightening up fields, woodland edges, parks and gardens across the UK after a week of sunshine.

The UK Met Office places the warmth in some historical perspective:

The last time we had a comparable warm spell in March was during 2005 between the 16th and 26th when temperatures reached 21.8 °C at Kew Gardens on the 19th. Before that we have to go back to 1968 and 1965 when two shorter spells (which coincidentally both happened for the same two-day period in March, from 29th to 30th) saw highs of 25.6 °C at Mepal, Cambridgeshire and 25.0 °C in Wakefield respectively, both on the 29th.

The same heat wave as U.S. or a different one?

Weather map on Saturday showing large ridges in the jet stream over Eastern North America and the United Kingdom associated with the unusually warm weather in those locations. ( )
The high pressure system - or heat dome - bringing the warm weather to Europe is not the same one that brought the record weather to the U.S. - but it is connected. It’s part of a global “wave train” characterized by a ridges (or bumps) in the jet stream over Eastern North America (which has since shifted East) and the UK, and a intervening trough (dip) in the central Atlantic.

Climate change links

To be clear, like the U.S. heat wave last week, the configuration of weather systems is the underlying cause of the unusual heat in the UK. But, in a new post at the blog Real Climate, scientist Stefan Rahmstorf at RealClimate cautions:

...the probability for “outlandish” heat records increases greatly due to global warming.

Rahmstorf and colleague Dim Coumou published a new study in the journal Nature Geosciences Sunday, summarized as follows:

The ostensibly large number of recent extreme weather events has triggered intensive discussions, both in- and outside the scientific community, on whether they are related to global warming. Here, we review the evidence and argue that for some types of extreme — notably heatwaves, but also precipitation extremes — there is now strong evidence linking specific events or an increase in their numbers to the human influence on climate. For other types of extreme, such as storms, the available evidence is less conclusive, but based on observed trends and basic physical concepts it is nevertheless plausible to expect an increase.

By  |  01:33 PM ET, 03/26/2012

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