Sunday, 25 Jul 2021

UK weather: Met Office issues first ever extreme heat warning amid sweltering conditions across country

The Met Office has issued its first ever extreme heat warning today as the UK experiences sweltering conditions in parts of the country.

It has been been applied to South Wales, West Midlands, southwest England and further east into Hampshire as far as the Isle of Wight.

The new weather warning level is in place until 23:59 Thursday when the heat is forecast to break down.

Extreme heat warnings were introduced on 1 June into the National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS), part of the Met Office which warns of the impacts of severe weather.

The warnings were brought in after consultations with Public Health England and the UK’s other health agencies, as well as other relevant groups, and are designed to highlight the downsides from heatwaves on things like health, infrastructure and other services.

It comes as swathes of the UK endured soaring temperatures over the weekend.

All four of the home nations recorded their hottest day of the year so far – and Northern Ireland had its warmest day on record, as temperatures hit 31.2C in Ballywatticock, County Down, at 3.40pm on Saturday.

The previous highest temperature was 30.8C, reached on 12 July 1983 and 30 June 1976.

Sky meteorologist Christopher England said: “The Met Office has issued its first ever extreme heat warning, covering much of south Wales and south-west and central England. This has come about due to the increased frequency and severity of heatwaves

“The warnings go beyond the heat health alerts issued by PHE – which are primarily aimed at preparing the NHS and mostly apply to the more vulnerable – to include a much wider range of impacts.

“These include such things as more general health impacts like sunburn, swimming related incidents, damage to infrastructure – such as buckling of railway lines, melting tarmac, loss of power – and the increased risk of wildfires and coastal congestion.

“The warnings are also designed to cover the whole of the UK, whereas heat health alerts, which are widely picked up by the media, do not apply to the devolved administrations.

“It is also worth noting that unlike other Met Office warnings, these will only be issued as AMBER – be prepared – and RED – take actions.

According to Public Health England, 2,256 excess deaths during a summer heatwave in 2020 – the highest since records began.

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE, said: “We are now in the middle of a natural disaster with hundreds of people dying across England and Wales due to the extreme heat.”

He added: “An official review of the Heatwave Plan for England published last year by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine concluded that it had made no detectable impact on the number of people being hospitalised and dying from heat.

“More than 2,500 deaths were linked to heatwave conditions last summer, the highest number since the Heatwave Plan was introduced in 2004.

“We are now facing conditions that are similar to the period of hot weather that occurred in August 2020, resulting in more than 1700 deaths across England.

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“Most of those who are dying are elderly or have underlying respiratory illnesses, living in houses and care homes that are prone to overheating.

“Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the government had implemented a national heat risk strategy.”

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