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UK’s hottest day on record

‘This life-threatening heat is just a taster of what’s to come’
The sun on a background of orange sky

For the first time on record temperatures in the UK have exceeded 40°C.

A provisional temperature of 40.2°C was recorded at Heathrow at 12.50 yesterday; if confirmed, that will beat the previous record of 38.7°C set in 2019 by 1.5°C – though temperatures continued to climb through the afternoon.

The first ever Red Extreme Heat warning was in place across parts of England together with a larger Amber Extreme heat warning covering much of England, Wales and southern Scotland.

‘We hoped we wouldn’t get to this situation but for the first time ever we are forecasting greater than 40°C in the UK.

‘In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century, with the most extreme temperatures expected to be observed in the southeast of England.

‘Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK. The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence.

‘The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing, and, even with current pledges on emissions reductions, such extremes could be taking place every 15 years in the climate of 2100.’

DR NIKOS CHRISTIDIS
Climate attribution scientist at the Met Office

A warming world

A recent Met Office study found that summers with days above 40°C somewhere in the UK have a return time of 100-300 years at present; even with current pledges on emissions reductions this can decrease to 15 years by 2100. 

Extreme heat events do occur within natural climate variation due to changes in global weather patterns. However, the increase in the frequency, duration and intensity of these events over recent decades is clearly linked to the observed warming of the planet and can be attributed to human activity.

‘The UK has just smashed multiple temperature records. Rail tracks are buckling under the heat, runways are melting, schools are closing and many people’s health is at risk – particularly those on the lowest incomes or the most vulnerable in our society.

‘How hot do you think it needs to get before the Prime Ministerial candidates realise that tackling the climate crisis needs to be their number one priority? It’s clear to everyone that urgent action to cut emissions must be taken, but the four Tory candidates are staying conspicuously quiet on the matter.

‘This life-threatening heat is just a taster of what’s to come unless the next prime minister delivers the concrete policies that will transition the UK away from fossil fuels, cut bills, boost cheap renewables and green our homes. Failure to do so won’t just lose the Conservatives votes at the next election – it will threaten the future of our society as we know it.’

REBECCA NEWSOM
Greenpeace UK’s head of politics

The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing.

While a 1°C background temperature increase may not seem significant, the resulting increase in the severity of extreme heat events is already evident in the observed record. This has widespread and significant impacts.

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