UK heatwave: Temperatures rising rapidly as over 40C predictedon July 18, 2022 at 11:34 am

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The UK braces for a record heatwave as some places in the south east exceed 34C by midday.

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The UK could have its hottest day on record this week, with temperatures forecast to hit up to 41C (106F).

The Met Office has issued a red extreme heat warning on Monday and Tuesday in much of England, from London and the south-east up to York and Manchester.

The current highest temperature in the UK is 38.7C, in Cambridge in 2019.

High temperatures are also forecast across the UK – with amber warnings in the rest of England, all of Wales, and parts of Scotland.

London is set to be one of the hottest places in the world on Monday, with temperatures soaring above the Western Sahara and the Caribbean.

As of 10:00 BST it was already 30.2C in Wisley, Surrey, up from just 12C just four hours earlier – with the Met Office reporting temperatures rising rapidly around the country.

The hot weather will continue on Tuesday – with overnight temperatures warned to be in the mid-20s – before cooling on Wednesday.

It is the first time the Met Office has issued a red warning since the system was introduced last year.

It means “widespread impacts on people and infrastructure” are expected, with “substantial changes in working practices and daily routines” required.

A woman keeping cool on the London Underground on Sunday

Image source, Reuters

Some schools plan to close early – or not open at all – although the government has issued guidance designed to keep them open.

Network Rail said people should travel only “if absolutely necessary” on Monday and Tuesday, with some cancellations already announced, and speed restrictions in place across the network.

LNER will not run services between London and Leeds and York for much of Tuesday.

Jake Kelly from Network Rail explained precautions are being taken to mitigate the impact of the extreme temperatures, but the heat would place railway infrastructure under “exceptional stress”.

A map of the amber and red weather warnings

Responding to claims the UK has seen worse heat – such as during the prolonged heatwave in 1976 – BBC Weather’s Simon King said the expected temperatures are much hotter, up to 10C above the extended heatwave and severe drought experienced then.

“That is where you the real health impacts come into play because these are dangerously high temperatures.”

Alongside the Met Office’s red and amber warnings, the UK Health Security Agency has issued a level four warning for England, which the government is treating as a “national emergency”.

After an emergency Cobra meeting for ministers on Saturday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said ambulance capacity would increase, alongside more call handlers.

A member of the Queen's Guard wearing a bearskin hat receives water to drink during the hot weather, outside Buckingham Palace in London

Image source, Reuters

The London Ambulance Service said it had seen 7,000 calls a day with rising temperatures and expected up to 8,000 on both Monday and Tuesday. A busy day in the capital would generally see around 5,500 calls, it explained.

While there is no warning in place for Northern Ireland, temperatures are predicted to reach 30C on Monday.

Soaring temperatures are also having a devastating impact on much of Europe and north Africa, with wildfires raging from Greece to Morocco and thousands being evacuated from blazes in France and Spain.

More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heat in Portugal and Spain in recent days.

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Analysis box by Justin Rowlatt, climate editor

The heatwave is happening when average world temperatures have risen by just over 1C from their pre-industrial levels.

We are living in the hottest period for 125,000 years, according to the UN’s climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

We know what is behind this – greenhouse gas emissions caused by our burning of fossil fuels like coal and gas. Concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are at the highest level for two million years and rising, according to the IPCC.

If all the promises governments made at the UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year are actually implemented then we’re looking at temperatures rising by 2.4C by the end of the century.

But the bad news is that emissions of CO2 continue to increase. Without big cuts by 2030 we could see temperatures go even higher. Perhaps as much as 4C by the end of the century, scientists predict.

What does that mean? I think you know the answer to that. It means more frequent and intense heatwaves like this.

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Sunday was the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching 33C in Flintshire, 32C in Cheshire, 27.7C in Armagh in Northern Ireland, and 26.4C at Auchincruive in Ayrshire.

People have been warned to take care if they cool off in water, with several deaths reported over the weekend – including a 16-year-old boy swimming in Salford Quays on Saturday evening and a 13-year-old boy who went missing in the River Tyne in Northumberland on Sunday.

Water companies in southern and eastern England have warned increased demand is leading to low pressure – and even interrupted supply – for some households.

Experts have urged people to drink water, keep their curtains closed where possible, and to check on friends and relatives.

“In this country we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in in the sun,” said Prof Penny Endersby, Met Office chief executive. “This is not that sort of weather.”

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More on the heatwave

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Chester Zoo has said it will stay shut during the heatwave to keep its animals, visitors, staff and plants safe, while pigs are being covered suncream as a precaution at the UK’s biggest agricultural show in Wales.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home has advised people not to walk their dogs during the heatwave, saying pet owners should focus on mental stimulation rather than physical exercise.

Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and last longer because of human-induced climate change – nine of the hottest days on record in the UK have happened since 1990.

The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

Tips for staying cool: Drink water and eat foods with high water content; Wear loose-fitting clothing in breathable fabrics and a hat. Stay in the shade and limit travel and exercise; use fans, ice and cool showers to reduce body temperature
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