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Royal Weddings and Climate Change

By David Kroodsma

At Climate Central, we are excited about the Royal Wedding not because it's an opportunity to fawn over the wealthy and powerful, but because of history. And not just because of history like the fact Queen Victoria was the first to popularize white wedding dresses when she donned one for her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840.

We are excited because in central England, where Prince William and Kate Middleton wed today, people have directly measured temperature for longer than anywhere else in the world. Ever since 1659 — more than a century before the U.S. Revolutionary war — scientists have continuously taken thermometer readings in this region of England. This data set has been compiled by the Met Office of the Hadley Center, and it represents the average temperature across a triangular area of the U.K. between Bristol, Lancashire, and London.

For most places on earth, weather data stretches back only a few decades. In central England, we have three and a half centuries of directly measured climate data.

Below we’ve plotted the average yearly temperature in Central England, and also marked Royal Weddings over the centuries. Click on a wedding to see what that year’s climate was like in Central England. Please note, we are not implying any relationship between Royal Weddings and climate change! In fact, you'll see that the weddings are quite out of sync with the warming trend.

The first thing you will notice, besides the fact that Queen Victoria’s white wedding gown made its debut on a colder-than-usual year in 1840, or that King George V wedded Queen Mary during a warmer-than-average year in 1893, is that five of the ten warmest years have occurred in the past decade, with the warmest year in England’s history being 2006. The two warmest Royal Wedding years were 1999 (Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones) and 2005 (Prince Charles and Camila Parker Bowles).

The warming trend over the past few centuries is not that extreme — about half a degree per century, on average, with faster warming in the past fifty years. However, the fact that the past decade has been warmer than any on record has played out not just in Central England, but also on thermometers all over the world.

The projections for England, based on the average of climate models as reported by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is for the average yearly temperatures in England to rise by an additional three to five degrees Fahrenheit this century.

What this means for Royal Weddings and proper Royal Wedding attire, only time will tell.


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