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Met Office issues red extreme heat warning for first time





Exceptional heat is expected to affect a large part of England next week including Cambridgeshire, with a chance temperatures could reach 40C.

The severe weather warning, which was triggered today (Friday, July 15) warning of population-wide adverse health effects, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life.

Initially, it was expected the unusually hot weather England and some parts of Wales are experiencing would peak on Sunday (July 17) and temperatures would drop considerably after Monday (July 18).

A sweltering two days of weather is forecast with temperatures expected to reach the high 30Cs.
A sweltering two days of weather is forecast with temperatures expected to reach the high 30Cs.

But forecasters at the Met Office have revised their predictions, warning that the heatwave is expected to continue past the weekend with temperatures now expected to peak between Monday and Tuesday before dropping away from Wednesday onwards.

The warning states: “Exceptional, perhaps record-breaking, temperatures are likely on Monday, then again on Tuesday. Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm for the UK, especially in urban areas. This is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure.”

While many have been enjoying the unusually prolonged spell of good weather, a lengthy stretch of above-average temperatures is not without its problems.

People have been urged to look out for the elderly and vulnerable after the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) expressed concerns about how people may be managing in the heat. The body has also issued a level four heat health alert for Monday and Tuesday.

The Met Office red warning tells the public to expect:

  • Population-wide adverse health effects experienced, not limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life, with government advice that 999 services should be used in emergencies only and to seek advice from 111 if you need non-emergency health advice.
  • Substantial changes in working practices and daily routines will be required
  • High risk of failure of heat-sensitive systems and equipment, potentially leading to localised loss of power and other essential services, such as water or mobile phone services
  • Significantly more people visiting coastal areas, lakes and rivers, leading to an increased risk of water safety incidents
  • Delays on roads and road closures, along with delays and cancellations to rail and air travel, with significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays

The Environment Agency has said it is watching water levels closely as the dry spell continues and the RSPCA has appealed to dog owners not to walk their animals in the heat for fear it might kill them.

Network Rail says it may be forced to implement speed restrictions on some rail networks should the high temperatures begin to affect services, and road gritters are on standby in a number of areas should Tarmac begin melting under the red-hot sun.

Gritters can scatter sand or grit on the roads to help stabilise them
Gritters can scatter sand or grit on the roads to help stabilise them

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 per cent chance we could see temperatures top 40C and 80 per cent 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.”

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

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.

“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.’’

The RSPCA says heatstroke in animals can be a 'silent killer'
The RSPCA says heatstroke in animals can be a 'silent killer'

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.”

Is this due to climate change?

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 40C 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 40C 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.”



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