The UK has seen its hottest July day ever as the temperature reached 38.1C in Cambridge. The new record outstripped the previous high for the month of 36.7C, set at Heathrow in July 2015.
It makes Thursday the second hottest UK day on record, also beating the 37.1C recorded in August 1990, Met Office figures show. And it is possible that the all-time UK high of 38.5C (101.3F) recorded in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003 could be passed, the Met Office has said.
Sweltering temperatures could spark thundery downpours, with a yellow warning for thunderstorms issued for most of England except the South West, and parts of Scotland from 3pm on Thursday until 4am on Friday. The storms could lead to flash flooding, disruption of train and bus services and even power cuts.
The Met Office says the current weather pattern is driving hot air from the south, but there is “no doubt” that climate change is playing a role in driving what could be unprecedented temperature highs.
Some areas experienced a “tropical night” on Wednesday, with the temperatures staying above 20C in spots such as St James’s Park in central London, Wattisham in Suffolk and Cromer in Norfolk.
People are being urged to take precautions against the heat, including staying hydrated, remaining inside at the hottest time of the day, avoiding exercise and wearing loose, light clothing.
Medical experts are warning that few lessons have been learned from last year’s heatwave and few hospitals are prepared for the impact of intense heat. Nick Scriven at the Society for Acute Medicine says NHS personnel are struggling and that overheated and exhausted staff are at greater risk of making errors.
“Last year, hospitals hired in large fans and coolers for a week or so, but have got nothing long-term in place – they are purely reactive, not proactive,” he says.
Network Rail announced that speed restrictions would be in place in the south-east from midday until 8pm amid fears that tracks could buckle in the heat if trains travel too fast. Speed limits on most commuter lines will be cut from 60 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the UK rail industry, advised passengers in the south-east to consider changing their travel plans on Thursday due to the heat.
High pressure over eastern Europe and Scandinavia combined with the position of the jet stream is funnelling hot air from Europe, which had originated in north Africa, says the Met Office.
A study from the Met Office previously showed that last year’s summer heatwave was made around 30 times more likely than it would be under natural conditions, as a result of human activity driving global warming.
Michael Byrne at the University of Oxford says that if Thursday became the hottest day on record in the UK, it would be “hugely significant” but just the latest in a “torrent” of temperature records being broken in the last month.
“Not only has 2019 brought the world its hottest ever June, but in recent days, countries from Belgium to the Netherlands to Germany have broken their all-time heat records. It has never been hotter in northern Europe,” he says. “Such extreme heat poses serious health risks this week, as well as uncomfortable questions about how well the UK is preparing for increasingly frequent and severe heatwaves over coming decades.”
The UK government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change has warned that the UK isn’t prepared for the increase in heatwaves that is expected with global warming.
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The UK has its hottest ever July day with temperatures hitting 38.1C – New Scientist News