UK issues first ever heat emergency

Temperatures are expected to hit 40 degrees Celsius next week

The UK has issued its first ever national emergency alert over summer temperatures, warning on Friday that record temperatures expected next week could cause illness and death even among fit and healthy people.

The UK’s Met Office sounded the alarm on Friday morning, raising its Heat Health Alert level to red, indicating that the coming heatwave constitutes a national emergency. The Met Office has forecasted temperatures in England to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) on Monday and Tuesday, a record for the UK.

A red alert indicates that “a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system,” the government agency stated. “At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.”

⚠️⚠️🔴 Red Extreme heat warning issued 🔴⚠️⚠️

Parts of England on Monday and Tuesday

Latest info 👉 https://t.co/QwDLMg9c70

Stay #WeatherAware ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/YHaYvaGh95

— Met Office (@metoffice) July 15, 2022

The Met Office advised citizens to close their curtains in rooms facing the sun, to drink plenty of fluids, and to keep an eye on younger children and older family members, as well as those with underlying health conditions. Unlike their American counterparts, most British homes do not have air conditioning equipment.

While the alert is the first of its kind issued by the Met Office, the warning system was only introduced in 2021. The World Health Organization has been calling for such systems to be introduced worldwide since 2016, claiming that climate change will result in more frequent and intense heatwaves this century.

“We’ve seen when climate change has driven such unprecedented severe weather events all around the world it can be difficult for people to make the best decisions in these situations,” Met Office Chief Executive Penny Endersby said in a statement. “Please treat the warnings we are putting out as seriously as you would a red or amber warning from us for wind or snow.”


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Britain recorded its hottest ever temperature in 2019, when Cambridge saw 38.7 degrees celsius in July 2019. However, waves of intense heat have been recorded periodically since record-keeping began in the early 20th Century. 1976 and 1995 are tied for the driest summers ever recorded in Great Britain, with temperatures reaching 36 degrees in 1976 and a drought persisting from June until October. 

Britain also suffered a famously intense heatwave in 1808, with temperatures believed to have hit between 37 and 38.5 degrees in England that July.

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