LONDON (AP) — Millions of people in Britain woke up to the nation’s hottest night Tuesday and braced for a day when temperatures are forecast to hit 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), as a wave Scorching heat in Europe hits a country more accustomed to mild weather. 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.
Hot, dry weather has gripped southern Europe since last week, sparking wildfires in Spain, Portugal and France, before moving north.
Monday’s temperature reached 38.1°C (100.6 F) in Santon Downham in eastern England, just shy of the hottest temperature ever recorded in Britain: 38.7°C, a record set in 2019. Tuesday is expected to be hotter.
Average July temperatures in the UK range from a daily high of 21°C to an overnight low of 12°C, 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 the probability of temperatures in the UK reaching 40°C is now 10 times higher than in the pre-industrial era. Drought and heat waves linked to climate change have also made wildfires more difficult to fight.
The dangers of extreme heat were on display in southern Europe. Nearly 600 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and Portugal, where temperatures reached 47C last week.
In the Gironde region of southwestern France, fierce wildfires continued to spread through tinder-dry pine forests, thwarting the firefighting efforts of more than 2,000 firefighters and bomber planes.
More than 37,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and summer vacation spots since the fires broke out on July 12, burning 190 square kilometers (more than 70 square miles) of forest and vegetation, Gironde authorities said.
A third, smaller fire broke out Monday night in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further straining firefighting resources. Five campsites caught fire in the Atlantic coast beach area where the flames burned, around the Arcachon sea basin, famous for its oysters and spas.
But weather forecasts offered some consolation, with temperatures from the heat wave expected to drop along the Atlantic coast on Tuesday and the possibility of showers later in the day.