Coningsby in Lincolnshire has provisionally recorded a temperature of 40.3°C, an event that would be extremely unlikely without climate change, and scientists warn that heatwaves will only get worse
19 July 2022
, updated 19 July 2022
Temperatures in the UK have passed 40°C for the first time, with a provisional record of 40.3°C set at Coningsby in Lincolnshire this afternoon.
It comes after a provisional record for the hottest night, with a minimum temperature of 25.8°C in Kenley in the London Borough of Croydon, smashing the previous record of 23.9°C in Brighton in 1990.
A heatwave has blanketed large parts of the country, closing schools, heaping pressure on hospitals and disrupting transport. Scientists say that a UK temperature of 40°C would be extremely unlikely without climate change, and that every heatwave now has been made more likely and more intense by global warming.
“That temperatures are as high as they are is because of human-induced climate change. And we are very certain about this now,” says Friederike Otto at Imperial College London.
Europe is sweltering in extreme heat, triggering forest fires across France, Greece, Portugal and Spain. A warning of “very extreme danger” of fire was forecast for many parts of those countries, with “danger” warnings extending as far north as Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. Thousands of people have been evacuated across Europe, and hundreds of deaths have been blamed on the heat.
The deadly heat affecting the continent comes as government ministers from more than 40 countries meet in Berlin for annual climate change talks known as the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, discussing help for low-income countries and how to cut carbon emissions faster. UN secretary general António Guterres said countries were failing on multilateral climate action. “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide,” he said in a statement today.
In the UK, a temperature of 34.8°C was provisionally recorded at Charterhall in the Scottish Borders, which would be a new record for Scotland. On 18 July, Hawarden set a provisional record high for Wales of 37.1°C.
Public health authorities encouraged people to stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day and advised against non-essential travel. Parents across England told New Scientist that their children’s schools were closed or closing early on Monday and Tuesday, despite the UK government saying there is no public health reason for school closures.
“Severe heatwaves are a problem that’s not going away, and they will get worse,” says Hannah Cloke at the University of Reading, UK. “So we can no longer tolerate poor design of our buildings and our cities. And we urgently need to think about things like reducing overheating, shading trees, building for cooling and providing these public cooling spaces.”
Sleep is interrupted for many people during heatwaves, says Laurence Wainwright at the University of Oxford. He adds there is evidence that shorter and poorer sleep can trigger existing mental health conditions.
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