For the first time in recorded history, the temperature in Britain has risen over 4°°0C (104°F) — and the heat continues to rise. The country may be known for its wet and gloomy weather but now, everything is scorching as the country experiences a dramatic heatwave.
The record-breaking temperature was recorded at Heathrow airport: 40.2°C recorded just before 1 PM — a degree and a half over the previous record of 38.7°C set in 2019. It’s still a provisional measurement but with temperatures continuing to rise for another couple of hours, it’s extremely likely that this will be soon broken by a wide margin.
The UK is really not used to this type of heat. At least 13 people were killed in heat-related events this week — either due to heat stroke or by drowning as they were attempting to cool down by swimming — and that’s just the start of it. Some roads and airport runways are reportedly melting and authorities have warned against all unnecessary travel. Power cuts have also been reported and in some areas, people have been asked to ration water. The World Meteorological Organisation has warned the UK (and other affected countries) to, unfortunately, expect more deaths among the elderly and vulnerable.
The UK Met Office issued its first-ever “Red Extreme” heat warning for parts of England, given the unprecedented heat threat. This is not an isolated heatwave, the entire country is hit. Met Office Chief Meteorologist Neil Armstrong, said:
“We are continuing to see exceptional temperatures in the UK today and it is important people plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.”
“Along with the extreme heat we are now seeing an increasing risk of thunderstorms particularly in the Northeast of England this afternoon (Tuesday) and in the south tomorrow (Wednesday).”
Extreme weather events like this are only the beginning. The nation (like the rest of the world) will have to prepare for more extreme heatwaves. Western European countries like France, Spain, and Portugal are also grappling with extremely hot weather, but a cooler country like the UK (where home air conditioning is extremely rare) is finding it very hard to adapt.
“We hoped we wouldn’t get to this situation,” Met Office climate attribution scientist Nikos Christidis said in a press release on Friday. “Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK.”
Numerous studies have shown that climate change is making heatwaves more intense and more regular. Without man-made climate change, a heatwave such as this one in the UK would only happen once every 300 years — now, the likelihood of it happening is about once every three years. By the end of the century, almost every year might have a heatwave like this, according to current climate projections.
Andrei's background is in geophysics, and he's been fascinated by it ever since he was a child. Feeling that there is a gap between scientists and the general audience, he started ZME Science -- and the results are what you see today.