This year’s heatwave led to the joint-hottest summer on record for the UK, the Met Office has said.
England experienced its hottest June to August in records dating back to 1910, with average temperatures narrowly beating those seen in 1976.
For the UK as whole, temperatures for June to August put this summer at the top of the league table along with 2006, 2003 and 1976 – all of which are within 0.03C of each other.
As well as being among the hottest summers on record, summer 2018 was notably dry and sunny – although the dry, sweltering conditions seen in much of the country in June and July gave way to a much more average August.
And this autumn could also see “above-average” temperatures, a three-month outlook covering August, September and October from the Met Office suggests.
It shows an increased chance of high-pressure patterns close to the UK, while sea surface temperatures “at near-record levels” following the hot weather also make warmer than normal conditions more likely.
However the autumn shapes up, the summer’s heatwave and prolonged drought has already had an impact on one of the key signs of the season – and the traditional childhood favourite game of conkers.
According to the Woodland Trust, the fruiting of horse chestnut trees has been delayed by as much as six weeks, with the hot weather and lack of water potentially to blame.
Last year, reports from the Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project, in which members of the public record the signs of the changing seasons, highlighted the first sighting of a ripe conker was in Somerset on July 7.
The first sighting nationally this year was in Wiltshire on August 18, while many regions are yet to report any ripe conkers.
Martha Boalch, citizen science officer for the Woodland Trust, said: “Although we’ve only had a small number of conkers recorded so far, all is not lost for our favourite sign of autumn.
“Over the next month, we would expect more fruit to ripen – but only time will tell whether this will be a bumper crop.”
Across the UK, all four record hot summer years – 2018 2006, 2003 and 1976 – recorded an average temperature of 15.8C (60.4F), to the nearest 0.1C.
In the Central England Temperature (CET) series, which only covers an area of central England but dates back to 1659, this summer slips behind 1976 and 1826 for the hottest June to August.
Only 10 summers in the CET series have recorded average temperatures above 17C, six of which have occurred since 1976 and only two of which were pre-20th century.
This is consistent with the general picture of the climate warming globally and in the UK, the Met Office said.
Tony Juniper, executive director at WWF, said: “As people and wildlife baked this summer, we all felt this was a monumental event. This data confirms it.
“Unfortunately, it looks like this will be the new normal, as our rapidly changing climate renders extreme weather ever more likely.
“We urgently need ambitious action to cut climate-changing pollution and to build a cleaner, greener economy.”
Friends of the Earth’s head of policy Mike Childs added: “It’s time for the government to take the heat of the planet by ending our fossil fuel fixation, investing in energy efficiency and developing the UK’s huge renewable power potential.”