Britain shattered its record for the highest temperature ever recorded on Tuesday amid a heat wave that swept across swathes of Europe – and a national weather forecaster predicted it could warm in a country unprepared for such extreme conditions..
The usually temperate country has been the latest to be engulfed in unusually hot and dry weather that have caused wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and have led to hundreds of heat-related deaths. Pictures of flames racing towards a French beach And the British are very hot – Even at the seashore – it prompted home concerns about climate change.
The UK Met Office recorded a provisional reading of 40.2 degrees Celsius (104.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at Heathrow in the early afternoon – breaking the record set just an hour earlier and as hours of intense sunshine continued. Before Tuesday, Britain’s highest temperature on record was 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.7 Fahrenheit), set in 2019.
As the nation watched the mercury rise with a mixture of horror and magic, the forecaster warned that temperatures could rise even more.
Severe weather has disrupted travel, healthcare and schools in a country unprepared for such extreme conditions. Many homes, small businesses, and even public buildings, including hospitals, don’t even have air conditioning, which reflects how strange such heat can be in a country notorious for rain and mild temperatures.
The sweltering heat since Monday has damaged the runway at London’s Luton Airport, forcing it to close for several hours, and marred a major road in eastern England, making it look like a ‘skate park’, police said. Major train stations were closed or nearly empty on Tuesday, as trains were canceled or running at low speeds for fear of sliding tracks.
Electric fans cooled traditional knights of cavalry as they stood in central London in heavy ceremonial attire. Other guards lowered their duties. The capital’s Hyde Park, usually crowded with pedestrians, was eerily quiet–except for the long lines for swimming in the Serpentine Lake.
“I’m going to my office because it’s cute and cool,” geologist Tom Elliott, 31, said after swimming. “I cycle instead of taking the subway.”
Queen Elizabeth II continued to act. The 96-year-old had a virtual meeting with the new US ambassador, Jane Hartley, from inside Windsor Castle.
Much of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, remained under the country’s first “red” warning of extreme heat on Tuesday, meaning there was a risk of death even for healthy people.
Such dangers can be seen in Britain and throughout Europe. At least six people have been reported to have drowned across the UK in rivers, lakes and reservoirs while trying to calm down. Meanwhile, nearly 750 heat-related deaths have been reported in neighboring Spain and Portugal in the heatwave there.
The highest temperature previously recorded in Britain was 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.7 Fahrenheit), a record set in 2019. Tuesday’s reading was provisional, meaning it is being produced as soon as possible with the final readings released after data quality control. office said.
Climate experts warn that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing that the probability of UK temperatures reaching 40°C (104°F) is now 10 times higher than in the pre-industrial era.
The head of the United Nations Meteorological Agency has expressed hope that the heat sweeping Europe will be a “wake-up call” for governments to do more on climate change.
“I hope that in democratic countries this kind of event will also have an impact on voting behaviour,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told reporters Tuesday in Geneva.
Prof Miles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, said combating climate change directly was the only solution for Britain, because the constant renewal of the country’s infrastructure to deal with it would be “extremely costly”.
“We cannot live in an ever-changing climate,” he told the BBC. “We have to stop this, and reverse this.”
Droughts and heat waves associated with climate change have also made it more difficult to fight forest fires.
In the Gironde region of southwestern France, wildfires are fierce It continued to spread through dry pine forests, thwarting firefighting efforts by more than 2,000 firefighters and water-bombing aircraft.
Gironde authorities said tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and summer vacation spots since the fires broke out on July 12.
A third, smaller fire broke out late Monday in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, raising taxes on firefighting resources. Five campgrounds in the Atlantic Coast beach area caught fire as fires raged around the Arcachon Marine Basin, famous for its oysters and resorts.
But weather forecasts offered some solace, with temperatures expected to drop along the Atlantic coast Tuesday and rain likely later in the day.
Britain was not the only country in northern Europe experiencing unusual heat. As Amsterdam baked Tuesday, municipal workers sprayed water on some of the mechanical bridges over the Dutch city’s canals to prevent minerals in them from expanding, which could jam and seal them off and impede boat traffic. Temperatures in the city are expected to approach 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers John Lister in Le Beck, France, Mike Corder in The Hague, the Netherlands, and Jamie Kitten in Geneva contributed to this story.
Follow the Associated Press’s climate coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment
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