Historic Extreme heat warning issued in UK

For the first time temperatures of 40°C have been forecast in the UK and the Met Office has issued the first ever Red warning for exceptional heat.

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Exceptional heat is expected to affect a large part of England early next week, with temperatures likely in the high 30s C in some places and perhaps even reaching 40°C.

The Red Extreme heat national severe weather warning will cover Monday and Tuesday (18th and 19th July) for parts of central, northern, eastern and southeastern England. An Amber Extreme heat warning, has been in place for much of England and Wales for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (17th – 19thJuly) since earlier this week. Today the amber areas are also being extended to cover Cornwall, west Wales and parts of southern Scotland.

 

Met Office Chief Meteorologist Paul Gundersen, said “Exceptional, perhaps record-breaking temperatures are likely early next week, quite widely across the red warning area on Monday, and focussed a little more east and north on Tuesday. Currently there is a 50% chance we could see temperatures top 40°C and 80% we will see a new maximum temperature reached.

“Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm, especially in urban areas. This is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure. Therefore, it is important people plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.”

The step up in warning level to red is running parallel to an increase in the current Heat Health Warning to Level 4 for England by the UK Health Security Agency.

The high pressure near the southern half of the UK, which has been responsible for this week’s warm weather, continues to dominate bringing largely dry and clear weather for most. However, during the weekend, a developing southerly flow will allow very high temperatures currently building over the continent to start to spread northwards into the UK. Further north, eastern areas of Scotland could see temperatures in in the high 20°C in a few places, well above their average for the time of year.

Will we get record-breaking heat?

This is the first time we have forecast 40°C  in the UK. The current record high temperature in the UK is 38.7°C, which was reached at Cambridge Botanic Garden on 25 July in 2019.

Weather forecast models are run numerous times to help us quantify the likelihood of a particular event occurring and estimate the uncertainty which is always present in weather forecasting to some degree. Some models are now producing a 50% chance of maximum temperatures in excess of 40°C in isolated parts of the UK for the start of next week. Mid, to high, 30s Celsius will be seen more widely with an 80% chance we will exceed the current record.

What happens after Tuesday

Temperatures are expected to start to return closer to normal for the time of year from the middle of next week onwards as cooler air pushes across the country from the west.

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Is this due to climate change?

 “We hoped we wouldn’t get to this situation but for the first time ever we are forecasting greater than 40°C in the UK. “Climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, Dr Nikos Christidis, said “In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century, with the most extreme temperatures expected to be observed in the southeast of England. 

“Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK. The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing, and, even with current pledges on emissions reductions, such extremes could be taking place every 15 years in the climate of 2100.”

A recent Met Office study found that summers which see days above 40°C somewhere in the UK have a return time of 100-300 years at present, even with current pledges on emissions reductions this can decrease to 15 years by 2100. 

Extreme heat events do occur within natural climate variation due to changes in global weather patterns. However, the increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of these events over recent decades is clearly linked to the observed warming of the planet and can be attributed to human activity. 

The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing 

Whilst a 1°C background temperature increase may not seem significant, the resulting increase in the severity of extreme heat events is already evident in the observed record. This has widespread and significant impacts. 

Advice

A Level 4 UK Health Security Agency Heat Health Alert has been issued for Monday and Tuesday. This is level of alert is used when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. At this level, illness may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at UKHSA, said: “Heat-health alerts have now been issued to the majority of the country, with temperatures set to remain consistently high throughout the duration of the weekend and the start of next week.

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“It is important to keep yourself hydrated and to find shade where possible when UV rays are strongest, between 11am and 3pm.

“If you have vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, make sure they are aware of how they can keep themselves protected from the warm weather.’’

Peter Jenkins, Director of Campaigns, Water UK said: “Water companies are seeing substantial demand during this extremely hot weather. We can all help ensure there’s enough to go around by being mindful of the amount of water we use while ensuring we stay hydrated and safe.

“By making just small changes indoors or in the garden you can have a big impact on our water consumption. Our Water’s Worth Saving campaign has a host of helpful top-tips showing the simple things we can all do to save this precious resource, so it remains readily available now and in the future.”

Mel Clarke, Customer Service Director for Operations at National Highways, said: “It is always important to plan ahead for your journey and this advice is no different during periods of hot weather. Our advice is that everyone should check their vehicles, such as tyres, coolant and oil levels, before heading out.”

Find out more about driving in hot weather with National Highways.

Government advice is that 999 services should be used in emergencies only; seek advice from 111 if you need non-emergency health advice.

Top ways to stay safe when the heat arrives are to:

  • Look out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated. Older people, those with underlying conditions and those who live alone are particularly at risk.
  • If you live alone, ask a relative or friend to phone to check that you are not having difficulties during periods of extreme heat.
  • Stay cool indoors: Close curtains on rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler and remember it may be cooler outdoors than indoors.
  • If going outdoors, use cool spaces considerately.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol.
  • Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially infants, young children or animals.
  • Try to keep out of the sun between 11am to 3pm, when the UV rays are strongest.
  • Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat, if you have to go out in the heat.
  • Avoid physical exertion in the hottest parts of the day.
  • Make sure you take water with you, if you are travelling.
  • Check the latest weather forecast and temperature warnings – you can find these on TV, radio, mobile app or website.
  • During warm weather going for a swim can provide much welcomed relief. If you are going into open water to cool down, take care and follow local safety advice.

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