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article imageWildfires break out in Britain as temperatures hit record levels

By Karen Graham     Feb 27, 2019 in World
Firefighters battled a series of wildfires in Britain on Wednesday, including a large moorland blaze outside the northern English city of Manchester, as the country experienced its warmest winter weather on record.
According to the Met Office, temperatures reached 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) for "the first time in winter on record" on Monday in parts of the United Kingdom this week.
Today's weather forecast will be welcome to most people as the Met forecasts just one more day of record-breaking weather, even as firefighters tackle a series of blazes across Britain.
The fire on Saddleworth Moor, outside the northern English city of Manchester, started on Tuesday night and is now contained. It is one of three fires in Britain, with the other two in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, the woodland made famous in AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories reports the BBC. There is also a large gorse fire on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland that firefighters have been battling all night.
Laura Boocock, West Yorkshire Fire Service’s incident commander, told the BBC the Saddleworth Moor fire was “one of the biggest moorland fires we’ve ever had to deal with”.
Woodland fires in winter are unusual, but fires in moorlands - even in the winter - are more common. "This is the 'muirburn' season," Dr. Thomas Smith, an environmental geography researcher from the London School of Economics, explained. "That's when Natural England permit fires on moorlands, before a ban on burning around mid-April.
"Looking at the satellite image for Tuesday (26 February), there were plenty of well-managed fires burning across Northumberland and Highland moor sites," said Dr. Smith.
Unusually hot temperatures
The hottest winter day ever recorded was registered on Tuesday at Kew Gardens which recorded a temperature of 21.2 Celsius (70.16 degrees Fahrenheit). The average temperature in February is between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius (42.8 and 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the Met Office.
As to whether the unusually high temperatures are being caused solely by climate change, Dr. Friedericke Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, said: "I am very confident to say that there's an element of climate change in these warm temperatures," she said. "But climate change alone is not causing it. You have to have the right weather systems too."
Prof. David Demeritt from Kings College London agreed. "This is consistent with what we might expect in the future, but attributing one particular warm weather event to climate change is tricky. Weather patterns are noisy, but the general trend is earlier springs, so this is consistent with that trend."
The Met Office is reporting that slightly cooler temperatures will be returning. The forecast calls for showers that are predicted for much of the UK on Thursday. Met Office forecaster Dean Hall said ”Some of those showers could be heavy and there could be a rumbling of thunder with that as well.”
More about Britain, Wildfires, record temperatures, Winter, muirburn' season
 
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