Millions of people in Britain woke up to the country’s hottest night on Tuesday and braced for a day when temperatures are forecast to hit 40 degrees Celsius, as a scorching heatwave hits Europe in a country more accustomed to mild weather and rain.
The UK’s weather agency, the Met Office, said provisional figures showed temperatures remained above 25C overnight in parts of the country for the first time.
Met Office forecaster Rachel Ayers said Tuesday’s highs would be “unprecedented.”
“The temperature will be very high throughout the day, before rising to 40C, maybe even 41C in isolated parts of England in the afternoon,” he said.
A large part of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, is under the country’s first ‘extreme’ heat warning, meaning life is in danger even for healthy people, as the Hot, dry weather that has scorched continental Europe over the past week moved north.
Monday’s temperature hit 38.1 C at Santon Downham in eastern England, just shy of the hottest temperature ever recorded in Britain – 38.7 C, a record set in 2019. be hotter.
Average July temperatures in the UK range from a daily high of 21C to an overnight low of 12C, and few homes or small businesses have air conditioning.
Many people coped with the heat wave by staying where they were. Road traffic was below its usual levels on Monday. Trains ran at slow speeds due to concerns about crooked rails or not 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 that connects the capital to the north and Scotland. London Luton Airport had to close its runway due to heat damage.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Britain’s transport infrastructure, some of which dates back to Victorian times, “was simply not 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 could.”
At least five people were 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 that temperatures in the UK reaching 40C are now 10 times more likely than in the pre-industrial era. Drought and heat waves linked to climate change have also made wildfires more difficult to fight.
Hot weather has gripped southern Europe since last week, sparking wildfires in Spain, Portugal and France. Almost 600 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and Portugal, where temperatures reached 47 C last week.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and vacation spots in the Gironde region of southwestern France since wildfires broke out in tinder-dry pine forests a week ago.