Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Extreme heat warning goes into effect in UK

LONDON (AP) – Britain’s first-ever extreme heat warning is in effect for large parts of England as hot, dry weather that has scorched mainland Europe for the past week moves north, disrupting travel, healthcare and schools.

The “red” alert will last throughout today when temperatures may reach 40 degrees Celcius (C) for the first time, posing a risk of serious illness and even death among healthy people, according to the United Kingdom (UK) Met Office, the country’s weather service. The highest temperature ever recorded in Britain is 38.7C, a record set in 2019.

While yesterday brought record highs to southeastern England, temperatures are expected to rise further as the warm air moves north today, Met Office CEO Penelope Endersby said.

The extreme heat warning stretches from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north.

“So it’s on Tuesday that we’re really seeing the higher chance of 40C and temperatures above that,” Endersby told the BBC. “Forty-one isn’t off the cards. We’ve even got some 43s in the model, but we’re hoping it won’t be as high as that.”

A police officer givers water to a British soldier wearing a traditional bearskin hat, on guard duty outside Buckingham Palace, during hot weather in London. PHOTO: AP

Hot weather has gripped southern Europe since last week, triggering wildfires in Spain, Portugal and France. Almost 600 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and Portugal, where temperatures reached 47 C last week.

Climate experts warn that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing that the likelihood of temperatures in the UK reaching 40C is now 10 times higher than in the pre-industrial era. Drought and heat waves tied to climate change have also made wildfires harder to fight.

In Britain, train operators are asking customers not to travel unless absolutely necessary because the heat is likely to warp rails and disrupt power supplies, leading to severe delays.

Some medical appointments have been cancelled to relieve strain on the health service. While some schools have closed, others are setting up wading pools and water sprays to help children cool off.

Britain is unaccustomed to the temperatures forecast this week, and few homes, schools or small businesses have air conditioning. Across the UK, average July temperatures range from a daily high of 21C to a low of 12C.

Nightfall will bring little relief from the heat, with the Met Office forecasting temperatures of 29C at midnight in London.