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UK hits ‘highest ever’ temperature smashing previous record set in Cambridge





Temperatures have breached 40C in the UK for the first time amid the continued heatwave, smashing the record set by Cambridge in 2019

A new provisional UK record temperature was recorded as 40.3C at Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, today (Tuesday, July 19). As of 5pm, 34 weather stations had exceeded the previous UK temperature record of 38.7C, which was reached at Cambridge Botanic Garden on July 25 in 2019.

Jesus Green Lido fully booked in the hot weather . Picture: Keith Heppell. (58058807)
Jesus Green Lido fully booked in the hot weather . Picture: Keith Heppell. (58058807)

The Met Office earlier revealed that the UK had experienced its warmest night on record on Monday, with temperatures remaining in the mid-20s. The five hottest UK days on record have all come in the past 20 years. But the warmest was today. Even the A14 began to melt in the heat, developing a dangerous ridge and 25 schools chose to close or finish early due to the extreme temperatures.

A Met Office expert has said temperatures of 40C in the UK would be “virtually impossible” without climate change.

Professor Stephen Belcher said: “I wasn’t expecting to see this in my career, but the UK has just exceeded 40C for the first time.”

In Cambridge, 39.9C was recorded at 3pm, according to the Met Office.

Please don’t have a bonfire today and make sure your BBQs are away from everything and not put directly on grass.

The heatwave has sparked a spate of fires and Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has been battling blazes all day.

Jesus Green Lido fully booked in the hot weather . Picture: Keith Heppell. (58058809)
Jesus Green Lido fully booked in the hot weather . Picture: Keith Heppell. (58058809)

Every fire engine they had in service had been called out to an incident. A fire service spokesperson said on social media: "It’s an incredibly busy day in our combined fire control today. Please help us by being ultra fire aware - don’t throw cigarette butts on grass verges or into fields, please don’t have a bonfire today and make sure your BBQs are away from everything and not put directly on grass."

The aftermath of the 400-acre field fire in Littlebury, off the M11, that broke out on Sunday July 17, 2022. Picture: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (58032731)
The aftermath of the 400-acre field fire in Littlebury, off the M11, that broke out on Sunday July 17, 2022. Picture: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (58032731)

The Prime Minister has paid tribute to firefighters and frontline workers.

Boris Johnson tweeted: “My thanks go to all the firefighters and frontline services who are working incredibly hard to keep us safe on this scorching day.

The ridge that developed on the A14 westbound at Bottisham in the extreme heat of July 18, 2022. Picture: BCH Road Policing Unit (58060463)
The ridge that developed on the A14 westbound at Bottisham in the extreme heat of July 18, 2022. Picture: BCH Road Policing Unit (58060463)

“I urge everyone to continue to follow the advice from emergency services – including @LondonFire as they respond to incidents.”

Katie Martyr horticultural assistant and weather reader at the University Botanic Gardens checking Monday's temperature. Picture: Keith Heppell. (58081830)
Katie Martyr horticultural assistant and weather reader at the University Botanic Gardens checking Monday's temperature. Picture: Keith Heppell. (58081830)

It was not a day to be in the Carter Bridge at Cambridge Railway Station - where one pedestrian recorded a temperature of 50C.

How is temperature measured?

Since the 1960s, the Met Office has been using data collected from observatories across the country which must meet certain criteria to measure the temperature.

Within each observatory is a Stevenson screen – a white box with slats that allow air to flow and a thermometer inside.

The screens face north, which makes the air temperature reading more reliable by shielding the thermometers from direct sunlight.

How are readings standardised across observatories?

Katie Martyr horticultural assistant and weather reader at the University Botanic Gardens checking Monday's temperature. Picture: Keith Heppell. (58082117)
Katie Martyr horticultural assistant and weather reader at the University Botanic Gardens checking Monday's temperature. Picture: Keith Heppell. (58082117)

Stevenson screens at every observatory should be located at least 20m from man-made materials such as concrete or hard standing, which can have an impact on results through heat retention.

Only half the area within 100m radius of each station should be formed of man-made surfaces to prevent readings becoming skewed by environmental factors.

Measurements are taken provisionally at first to allow for the instruments and surroundings to be checked, and some observatories do not report as frequently as others.

For example, Cambridge Botanic Garden only take readings once a day at 10am – so Tuesday’s peak for this station will be confirmed at 10am on Wednesday.

How are readings made comparable with previous records?

Katie Martyr horticultural assistant and weather reader at the University Botanic Gardens checking Monday's temperature. Picture: Keith Heppell. (58082116)
Katie Martyr horticultural assistant and weather reader at the University Botanic Gardens checking Monday's temperature. Picture: Keith Heppell. (58082116)

The Met Office first officially accepted responsibility for custodianship of public weather records in 1914.

This is when observatories became more consistent in the way they collected data.

Parkers Piece empty of potential sunbathers . Picture: Keith Heppell. (58058597)
Parkers Piece empty of potential sunbathers . Picture: Keith Heppell. (58058597)

For records to become official, the Met Office carries out physical inspections by a team of engineers who can check equipment is working as it should with no anomalies.

Figures from specific observatories are also cross-checked with other stations for any inconsistencies – so the daily data from Tuesday make up a provisional record that will go through a verification process to become official.



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