Last year was among the wettest, hottest and sunniest years on record, the Met Office has said, as it warned extremes will become more common.

The annual "State of the UK Climate" report found that 2020 was the first year on record which made the top 10 in all three categories of rainfall, sunshine and high temperature.

Published in the Royal Meteorological Society’s International Journal of Climatology, the paper warned that "recent decades have been warmer, wetter and sunnier than the 20th century".

Last year was the third warmest, fifth wettest and eighth sunniest on record for the UK.

Heatwaves and bursts of heavy rain were becoming more common, while snow days were becoming less likely, the paper’s authors said, reflecting a warmer climate which can hold more moisture.

Brighton seafront in April last year, when sunny weather made outdoor lockdown exercise somewhat easier

Credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

Lead author Mike Kendon, a senior climate scientist at the Met Office, said: "Our climate is changing, and it is changing now. And that is something that we see clearly in our observations.

"The science is clear that we’re going to see more of that, moving into the future."

Last spring was the sunniest on record, included the sunniest April and May, and was also sunnier than most UK summers have been.

Six of the 10 wettest years for the UK have occurred since 1998, and the decade to 2020 was on average nine per cent wetter than the period from 1961 to 1990.

Two of the three wettest days on record happened last year, with Oct 3 seeing the most rainfall in a single day (brought by Storm Alex – see video below) and Feb 15 seeing the third-most. Aug 25 1986 comes second.

Records for rainfall go back to 1862, while those for temperature date to 1884 and sunshine 1919.

A second measure for Central England found 2020 was also the third-warmest year since 1659.

The UK land temperature during the past decade has been 1.1C warmer than 1961-1990, meaning the UK is warming slightly quicker than the global average of 0.8C, the report said. 

One positive trend due to the changing climate could be a reduction in extreme snowfall, which can cause flooding as it melts, Mr Kendon added.

But less of this: the morning after snowfall in Slayley, Northumberland

Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The 2018 ‘Beast from the East’, which caused chaos for several days in February and March, would have been a more common event in the past, he said.

"We have had some severe weather relatively recently, like the Beast from the East event in February 2018. But an event like that would have been much more normal in the winters of the 1980s.

"And indeed, we’ve seen nothing in recent years as severe as January 1963, February 1947. So in general, although we may still get them overall, we’d expect impacts from snow to decline."

The UK had a lot of weather in 2020 …
It was our third-warmest year

Swimmers in the London borough of Hillingdon on July 31, which saw the third highest UK temperature on record

Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images

And fifth-warmest winter (December 2019–February 2020), including the sixth-warmest January.

On July 31 a temperature of 37.8C was recorded at Heathrow, making this the UK’s third-warmest day on record.

An early August heatwave in southern England was one of the most significant in the past six decades, with days exceeding 34C and nights over 20C.

The fifth-wettest year on record

A walk with the dog between downpours on Oct 3, which saw the most rainfall recorded in a single day

Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Total rainfall in 2020 was 1,336mm, 116 per cent of the 1981-2010 average, making it the wettest year since 2000.

On Aug 16 a rain-gauge in Norfolk recorded a daily total of 239.9mm, the highest ever measured at an individual station in August.

February 2020 was the UK’s wettest February and fourth-wettest calendar month on record.

Last year was our eighth-sunniest

It was unseasonably warm on Primrose Hill on April 5 – and for the whole of spring

Credit: Ollie Millington/Getty Images

It was the sunniest spring on record, including the sunniest April and May.

The year had 109 per cent of the 1981–2010 average and 113 per cent of 1961–1990 average sunshine hours, with a total of 1,497 hours.

Summer was significantly less sunny than spring, with just three-quarters of the spring sunshine total recorded.

Climate change ‘on our doorstep’

Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said: "I think sometimes, particularly in the UK, we can become a little bit complacent because we see climate change happening somewhere else or some distance in the future.

"This report clearly is evidence that climate change is already happening and already happening on our doorstep with a number of extremes that are having an impact on us as humans.

"I still find them shocking myself when you see these records being broken, and the frequency with which records are being broken in the UK. It is still a shock to me as a meteorologist, having worked in this area for the last 25 years or so."