Met Office says 40C heatwave weather becoming more likely in UK after wet start to summer

25 July 2023, 09:39

This summer has seen cooler temperatures and more rain
This summer has seen cooler temperatures and more rain. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Temperatures of more than 40C are becoming increasingly likely in the UK due to climate change, the Met Office has warned.

It comes as the weather agency prepares to release its State of the UK Climate report for 2022, which saw temperatures break 40C for the first time as well as a record number of heat-related deaths.

Extreme temperatures and heatwaves have gripped other parts of the world this summer, including in Europe, North America, North Africa and Asia.

Meanwhile, June 2023 was the world's hottest month on record.

Climate experts have warned that the 40C heat seen last year would not be possible without climate change and that Britain is underprepared for increasingly likely extreme weather events.

A landscape of dry, brown and parched grass in Brockwell Park during the UK drought in 2022
A landscape of dry, brown and parched grass in Brockwell Park during the UK drought in 2022. Picture: Getty

Oli Claydon, from the Met Office, said the 40C milestone is still viewed as an "extreme weather event" but it is going to be increasingly more likely in the UK in the years ahead.

"It is evident that the climate is possible to reach 40C in the UK now, as we saw in a number of stations in July last year," he said.

"The likelihood of exceeding it going forward somewhere in the UK in a given year is now increasing due to human-induced climate change," Mr Claydon added.

"So as well as the need to mitigate against future climate change by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, we're already experiencing the impacts of climate change now, so there's already a need to adapt to the types of weather extremes that we can see in the UK."

Read More: Brits finally to get some sun after washout weekend saw much of the UK hit with wet weather

Read More: When will warmer weather return to the UK? Met Office makes new forecast for August

Though there are warnings of extreme temperatures coming to the UK more often in the years ahead, this summer has been uncharacteristically wet, with cooler temperatures and less sunshine in many places.

It comes after the UK experienced its hottest June on record, which the Met Office put down to "the background warming of the Earth’s atmosphere due to human-induced climate change".

But this month, high temperatures in Europe are being driven by settled conditions under an upper ridge sat across the continent - pushing temperatures up.

There are also "unusually high" surface sea temperatures, exacerbating the effects of the heatwave.

But, according to the Met Office, the southern shift of the Jet Stream that has pushed the high pressure southwards across this region has also led to low pressure systems being directed into the UK, bringing more unsettled and cooler weather.

How will the rest of summer go?

Will we be getting a heatwave?
Will we be getting a heatwave? Picture: Getty

A heatwave is defined by the Met Office as "an extended period of hot weather relative to the expected conditions of the area at that time of year, which may be accompanied by high humidity".

In the UK, a heatwave threshold is met "when a location records a period of at least three consecutive days with daily maximum temperatures meeting or exceeding the heatwave temperature threshold".

According to the Met Office's long range forecast for the rest of summer, a heatwave seems unlikely.

It reads: "The conditions for the end of July are expected to remain unsettled, a theme which is likely to continue into early August as well.

"Widespread showers are probable across the UK throughout the period with northern areas likely to see the heaviest of these, some of which may also turn thundery.

"More persistent spells of rain may develop as well, especially in western elevated regions, replacing some of the showers."

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But once we hit mid-August, there are indications for "more settled conditions", with dry weather and more sunshine compared with previous weeks.

The forecast continues: "Unsettled spells are still possible, albeit with a slightly reduced likelihood than normal.

"Although temperatures may be below average early in the period, they are likely to rise to average or above average into the second half of the month as the conditions settle down."