For the first time, temperatures of 40C have been predicted in the UK and the Met Office has issued the first ever red warning for exceptional heat.
Unusual heat is expected to affect much of England early next week, with temperatures likely to hit 30C in some places and possibly even reach 40C.
The National Red Extreme Heat Severe Weather Warning will cover Monday and Tuesday (18e and 19e July) for parts of central, northern, eastern and southeastern England. An Amber Extreme Heat Warning was put in place for much of England and Wales on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (17e – 19eJuly) since the beginning of this week. Today, the orange zones are also extended to cover Cornwall, West Wales and parts of southern Scotland.
Met Office chief meteorologist Paul Gundersen said: ‘Exceptional, possibly record high temperatures are likely early next week, quite broadly in the red alert zone on Monday, and concentrated somewhat further east and north on Tuesday. Currently, there is a 50% chance that we will see temperatures above 40 C and 80% that we will see a new maximum temperature reached.
“Nights are also likely to be unusually warm, particularly in urban areas. This will likely lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure. Therefore, it is important for people to plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.
The increase in the warning level to red parallels an increase in the current health heat 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 the most part. However, over the weekend a developing southerly flow will allow the very high temperatures currently forming over the continent to begin to spread north into the UK. Further north, eastern parts of Scotland could see temperatures reaching 20C in a few places, well above their average for the time of year.
Will we have record heat?
This is the first time we have forecast 40C in the UK. The current record temperature in the UK is 38.7°C, reached at the Cambridge Botanic Garden on July 25, 2019.
Weather forecast models are run multiple times to help us quantify the probability of a particular event occurring and estimate the uncertainty that is always present in weather forecasts to some degree. Some models are now producing a 50% chance of maximum temperatures above 40C in remote parts of the UK for the start of next week. Average to high temperatures of 30s Celsius will be more widely observed with an 80% chance that we will exceed the current record.
What happens after Tuesday
Temperatures are expected to start returning to closer to normal for the time of year from the middle of next week as cooler air moves across the country from the west.
You can find the latest forecast on our website, by following us onTwitterand Facebook, as well as on our mobile application available for iPhone on the App Store and for Android on Google Play Store. Keep track of current weather warnings on the weather warning page.
Is it due to climate change?
“We were hoping not to come to this situation, but for the first time we are forecasting over 40C 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 increased and will continue to do so over the century, with the most temperature extremes expected to be seen in the south east of England.
“Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of extreme temperatures in the UK. The chances of seeing 40C days in the UK could be up to 10 times more likely in the current climate than in a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40C anywhere in the UK in any given year has also risen rapidly and, even with current promises to cut emissions, such extremes could occur every 15 years in the climate of 2100.
A recent Met Office study found that summers that see days above 40C somewhere in the UK have a return time of 100-300 years at present, even with current promises of reduction in emissions, this may decrease to 15 years by 2100.
Extreme heat events occur as part of natural climatic variations due to changes in global weather patterns. However, the increase in frequency, duration and intensity of these events in recent decades is clearly linked to observed global warming and can be attributed to human activity.
The chances of seeing 40C days in the UK could be up to 10 times more likely in the current climate than in a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40C anywhere in the UK in any given year has also risen rapidly
While a 1°C increase in background temperature may not seem significant, the resulting increase in the severity of extreme heat events is already evident in observed records. This has widespread and significant impacts.
A level 4 health alert from the UK Health Security Agency has been issued for monday and tuesday. This alert level is used when a heat wave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social protection system. At this level, disease can occur among fit and healthy people, not just high-risk groups.
Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, said: “Heat and health alerts have now been issued across the majority of the country with temperatures expected to remain consistently high throughout long weekend and the start of the next week.
“It’s important to stay hydrated and find shade when possible when the UV rays are strongest, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“If you have vulnerable family, friends and neighbors, make sure they know how they can protect themselves from the hot weather.”
Peter Jenkins, Campaigns Director, Water UK, said: “Water companies are seeing significant demand in these extremely hot times. We can all make sure there’s enough for everyone by considering how much water we use while making sure we stay hydrated and safe.
“By making small changes indoors or in the garden, you can have a big impact on our water use. Our Water’s Worth Saving campaign has loads of helpful tips showing the simple things we can all do to save this valuable resource, so that it remains readily available now and in the future.
Mel Clarke, Director of Customer Service for Operations at National Highways, said: ‘It’s always important to plan your trip ahead and this advice is no different during periods of hot weather. Our advice is that everyone should check their vehicles, such as tires, coolant and oil levels, before setting off.
Learn more about driving in hot weather with National Highways.
Government advice is that 999 services should only be used in an emergency; ask for advice on 111 if you need non-emergency health advice.
The best ways to stay safe when the heat is coming are to:
- Beware of those who may struggle to stay cool and hydrated. The elderly, those with underlying medical conditions, and those who live alone are particularly at risk.
- If you live alone, ask a relative or friend to call you to make sure you are not having trouble in extreme heat.
- Stay cool indoors: Draw curtains in rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler, and remember that it can be cooler outside than inside.
- If you go outside, use cool spaces with care.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol.
- Never leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle, especially babies, young children or pets.
- Try not to go out in the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when UV rays are strongest.
- Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a wide-brimmed hat, if you must go out in the heat.
- Avoid physical exertion during the hottest hours of the day.
- Be sure to take water with you if you travel.
- Check the latest weather forecasts and temperature warnings – you can find them on TV, radio, mobile app or website.
- In hot weather, going for a swim can bring welcome relief. If you go into open water to cool off, use caution and follow local safety advice.