Drought to be declared in parts of England amid warning of 'exceptional' risk of wildfires

11 August 2022, 10:27 | Updated: 11 August 2022, 15:55

An exceptional risk of wildfires has been issued, with a drought set to be declared in part of southern England
An exceptional risk of wildfires has been issued, with a drought set to be declared in part of southern England. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Will Taylor

A drought is likely to be declared for parts of southern England on Friday, LBC understands.

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The UK's National Drought Group is set to meet in the morning to discuss prolonged dry weather and an announcement could be made early in the afternoon.

It comes amid warnings of an "exceptional risk" of wildfires that will threaten Britain on Friday, just weeks after flames tore through homes and farms.

Britain has entered the first of four days of a heatwave that one expert fears could be even worse for people's health than July's record breaking 40C heat – though temperatures are not set to climb that high.

The Met Office has an amber extreme heatwave warning in place for most of southern England, the Midlands and Wales until the end of Sunday, with the mercury possibly due to hit 36C in some parts.

The last bout of serious heat saw wildfires break out across the country, engulfing chunks of Wennington in Essex that left homes and gardens devastated.

Motorways and skylines became shrouded by black smoke that emerged from a spate of fires that set off across England – and the risk of them breaking out again is back.

"The risk is very high across much of central, southern and eastern England," warned Marco Petagna, a Met Office meteorologist.

"Going into Friday and the weekend, it starts to increase further, going into the highest category of exceptional risk."

Firefighters have had to tackle a number of wildfires amid dry and hot weather
Firefighters have had to tackle a number of wildfires amid dry and hot weather. Picture: Alamy

This heatwave could last longer than the 40C record-breaking wave last month – and prove to be even more dangerous for people's health.

The Met Office has issued amber warnings for extreme heat covering most of southern England, the Midlands and part of Wales from Thursday until the end of Sunday.

Although the mercury is not expected to climb as high as the 40s – possibly peaking at 36C - its longer duration could be more of a threat.

Read more: Victims of burglary being failed by police and 'not getting justice they deserve', watchdog says

Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Reading, said: "The warnings for extreme heat from both the Met Office and the heat health alert issued by the UK Health Security Agency are another reminder that this summer in the UK is proving to be lethally hot.

"Compared to the July record-breaking heat, this event will be less intense but last longer, which could actually have a greater impact on people's health.

"This heatwave might not break any records for maximum temperatures, but it might actually cause more deaths."

Wennington was devastated by a wildfire
Wennington was devastated by a wildfire. Picture: Getty

The Met Office has warned of "adverse health effects" for people more vulnerable to extreme heat, and warned of a general risk to people including sunburn or heat exhaustion.

Changes to work practices may be needed and the expected rise in trips to the coats, lakes and rivers will lead to an increased risk of water incidents.

Read more: Fire chiefs plea to ditch garden barbecues and government calls for more hosepipe bans as heatwave returns

"Some delays to road, rail and air travel are possible, with potential for welfare issues for those who experience prolonged delays," the Met Office said.

The weather agency said heat will build up until it peaks on Friday and Saturday due to high pressure over the UK.

But they are not set to get as high as the 40C highs seen in July on Britain's hottest ever day.

The Met Office's deputy chief meteorologist, Dan Rudman, said: "Thanks to persistent high pressure over the UK, temperatures will be rising day-on-day through this week and an Extreme heat warning has been issued.

"Temperatures are expected to peak at 35C on Friday and Saturday, or even an isolated 36C on Saturday. Elsewhere will see temperatures widely into the high 20s and low 30s Celsius.

"Coupled with the high daytime temperatures there will be some warm nights, with temperatures expected not to drop below the low 20s Celsius for some areas in the south."

Outside of the heatwave warning area, Scotland and Northern Ireland are also due to see temperatures in the high 20s and may enter a heatwave by Friday.

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