SCOTLAND'S climate is changing faster than expected, according to new research.

Research carried out by the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen says average February temperatures have already reached some projections for 2050.

Researchers say that in certain parts of Scotland, temperatures have risen by 2.5C in February – with the average of 16.9C in the period of 1960-1989 increasing to 19.4C during the three decades of 1990-2019.

It says increases in winter rainfall have also already exceeded projections for 2050.

The James Hutton Institute carried out the research on behalf of the Scottish Government.

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Researchers also warned of an increase in water scarcity in the near future, stating it could threaten agriculture, forestry, animal habitats, and hamper the country’s peatland restoration efforts.

It comes as the UK, including Scotland, faced its hottest June on record and July was recorded as the world’s hottest month.

The daily global sea surface temperature also broke records at the beginning of August.

Dr Mike Rivington, who led the Scottish climate change and extremes trends research at the institute, said: “We are now in the midst of climate breakdown: our ecosystems that regulate the climate and enable food production are degrading and are at risk of collapse, whilst we continue to increase greenhouse gas emissions driving further warming.

“There has never been a more important time to understand the scale of the threat and how fast we need to act.

“The acceleration of climate change and biodiversity loss on a global scale could push us beyond key tipping points, which if crossed will be irreversible.

“The fact that we have already experienced some of the projected changes in Scotland’s climate suggests that climate change is happening faster.

“This will have global impacts, affecting trade and undermining the stability of economies at same time reducing our own capacity to adapt, for example, homegrown food and the water and energy and nature based services we get from today’s ecosystems.”

The National: Mairi McAllan

Cabinet secretary for transport, net zero and just transition Mairi McAllan (above) added: “These findings underline that the climate emergency is not a distant threat – it is with us today.

“Storms have battered Scotland in recent months and 2023 is set to be the hottest year on record.

“The impacts of climate change are affecting families, communities and businesses across Scotland.

“That is why we are taking action to make Scotland more resilient in the face of a changing climate.”

The research was given to the Scottish Government in two separate reports titled Climate Trends and Future Projections in Scotland and Climate Extremes in Scotland.

The reports not only examine past trends, but also look at what Scotland can expect in future, and is based on a range of 12 climate projections as far as 2080.

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The number of consecutive dry days is also expected to increase in drier months, including September.

Dr Rivington said: “Our climate is changing and this has many implications.

“It will increase stress on species and habitats and how well ecosystems function.

“Without fully functioning healthy ecosystems, agriculture and other ways nature supports society and the economy become impeded.

“Threats include water shortages reducing agricultural productivity, and risk water supplies running out at points in the year.

“Less and warmer water in streams impacts river health and water quality due to higher concentrations of pollution, but also increased potential for flooding in winter due to increased rainfall.”

He added: “Forewarned is forearmed and the analysis is hugely valuable if acted on.

“Adaptation plans need to consider the complexities of flood and drought in the same year or even same season, but we can adjust to manage these risks better.

“For example, we could capture and store more of that excess rainfall from the winter months for use in summer; this is not just in terms of engineering and reservoirs but also land management in our water catchments.

“Farms can increase the organic matter in soils, so they store more water for droughty periods. We can also use the knowledge to plan better and have better surveillance e.g. raise greater awareness about wildfire risk and adjust seasonal management guidance on muirburn.”

McAllan added: “In January, we will publish a draft of our ambitious National Adaptation Plan to address the climate risks facing Scotland.

“We are making Scotland more resilient to flooding, providing £150 million of extra funding, on top of our annual £42 million funding, for flood risk management over the course of this Parliament and consulting on a new Flood Resilience Strategy in the new year.”