UK has warmest-ever night, braces for record-smashing heat
LONDON: Millions of people in the UK woke up from the country’s warmest night ever on Tuesday and braced for a day when temperatures are forecast to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). ), as a scorching European heatwave swept through a country accustomed to mild weather and rain.
The UK’s Met Office weather agency said provisional figures showed temperatures to remain above 25°C overnight for the first time in parts of the country.
Met Office forecaster Rachel Ayers said Tuesday’s high would be “unprecedented”.
“Temperatures will be very hot throughout the day, before climbing as high as 40 °C, possibly even as high as 41 °C in isolated spots across the UK,” she said.
A large swath of Britain, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, is under the country’s first warning of “extreme” heat, meaning there is a risk of death even for healthy people.
Hot, dry weather has blanketed southern Europe since last week, sparking wildfires in Spain, Portugal and France, before moving north.
Monday’s temperature hit 38.1°C (100.6F) at Santon Downham in eastern England, just short of the highest ever recorded in the UK – 38.7°C, a record-setting in 2019. Tuesday is expected to be hotter.
Average July temperatures in the UK range from a daily high of 21°C to a nighttime low of 12°C and very few homes or small businesses have air conditioning.
Many people have coped with the heat wave by staying put. Road traffic was down from normal on Monday. Trains run at low speeds due to concerns that the tracks are warped, or not running at all. London’s Kings Cross Station, one of the country’s busiest rail hubs, was empty on Tuesday, with no trains on the busy east coast line linking the capital with the north and Scotland. London’s Luton Airport had to close its runway because of the high temperatures.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Britain’s transport infrastructure, some of which dates back to the Victorian era, “just wasn’t built to withstand this kind of temperature – and it will be many years before we can.” replace the infrastructure with the kind of infrastructure that is possible”.
At least five people are reported to have drowned across the UK in rivers, lakes and reservoirs while trying to cool off.
Climate experts warn that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing the chance of UK temperatures reaching 40°C is now 10 times higher than pre-industrial era. Droughts and heat waves associated with climate change also make wildfires more difficult to treat.
The dangers of extreme heat have been shown in southern Europe. Nearly 600 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and Portugal, where temperatures hit 47°C last week.
In the Gironde region of southwestern France, raging wildfires continued to spread through arid pine forests, foiling the firefighting efforts of more than 2,000 firefighters and water bombers.
More than 37,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and vacation spots since the fire broke out on July 12 and consumed 190 square kilometers (more than 70 square miles) of forest and vegetation, the Gironde government said.
A third, smaller fire broke out late Monday in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further taxing firefighting resources. Five campgrounds burst into flames on the Atlantic coast beach area where the fire raged, around the Arcachon Sea basin known for its oysters and resorts.
But weather forecasts have offered some solace, with heatwave temperatures expected to ease along the Atlantic coast on Tuesday and a chance of rain later in the day.