DRY, hot summers with temperatures around 30C are set to become the norm in Scotland, researchers have suggested.

Analysis of UK climate projections by Met Office staff and researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Oxford indicates a substantial increase in the likelihood of Scottish summers being similar to the heatwave of 2018 between now and 2050.

The country experienced unusually hot conditions that summer, with a near record high of 31.9C recorded at Bishopton in Renfrewshire.

A temperature of 33.2C was measured at Strathclyde Park in Motherwell in June 2018 but this was not accepted as a new record by the Met Office, due to fears the equipment could have been affected by a nearby parked vehicle.

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The 32.9C recorded in August 2003 at Greycrook in the Borders is Scotland’s highest-ever official temperature.

Unless greenhouse gas emissions are cut substantially, the researchers said it is possible every summer may be as hot as 2018 towards the end of the century.

Human influences had made the heatwave more likely, researchers said, adding that their findings indicate the need to start long-term planning now to deal with heatwaves in Scotland induced by climate change.

The Edinburgh team interviewed those who dealt with the impact of the 2018 heatwave, which involved special measures such as water being distributed by tankers, and railway lines being painted white to prevent them buckling.

Combining this with analysis of media coverage, the team concluded Scotland had been largely able to cope with the hot weather, but with some difficulty.

Many interviewees said successive years of such heatwaves would prove very challenging, particularly given the substantial costs involved in mitigation.

Lead researcher Professor Simon Tett, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, said: “Despite its cool climate, Scotland must start to prepare now for the impact of high-temperature extremes.

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“The bottom line is that heatwaves have become more likely because of human-induced climate change.”

The study, funded by ClimateXchange, was published online by IOPscience.

It coincided with a warning that Scottish wildlife is being confused by “lost” winters.

The latest data from Nature’s Calendar, which asks members of the public to record signs of the changing seasons, shows that active butterflies and newts as well as blackbirds building a nest have already been spotted months before normal. And analysis of the conditions in 2019 found that all but one of the 50 spring events the scheme tracks were early last year, amid warmer winter temperatures.

The Woodland Trust, which runs the Nature’s Calendar scheme, warns that many species are losing their seasonal cues as winters warm and seasons shift.

Some could be tempted out of hibernation too soon, and be hit by plummeting temperatures amid increasingly erratic weather, while some birds appeared to be breeding too late to make the most of vital food sources, the trust said.

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Lorienne Whittle, Nature’s Calendar citizen science officer at the Woodland Trust said: “It seems that last year we almost lost winter as a season – it was much milder and our data shows wildlife is responding, potentially putting many at risk.

“Our records are showing random events such as frogspawn arriving far earlier than expected, possibly to be wiped out when a late cold snap occurs.’’

“It appears that some species are able to adapt to the advancing spring better than others. Oak trees respond by producing their first leaves earlier and caterpillars seem to be keeping pace.

“But blue tits, great tits and pied flycatchers are struggling to react in time for their chicks to take advantage of the peak amount of caterpillars, the food source on which they depend.’’

This winter’s surprise sightings include two December records of peacock butterflies on the wing in Kent and Cornwall, thought to have been woken early due to mild weather in the south of the country, and a red admiral in the Channel Islands.

Active newts were recorded in late December in Cheshire and a blackbird was spotted building a nest at the beginning of January.