Met Office warns of extreme heatwave every three years after UK burns in 40C heat

19 July 2022, 22:27 | Updated: 19 July 2022, 23:49

The UK experienced an unprecedented heatwave on Monday and Tuesday
The UK experienced an unprecedented heatwave on Monday and Tuesday. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

The Met Office has warned that the UK could see an extreme heatwave every three years, after record-breaking temperatures caused wildfires and travel chaos across the nation on Tuesday.

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Met Office Chief of Science and Technology, Professor Stephen Belcher, said he was not "expecting to see [temperatures of 40C in the UK] in his career", adding it is "a real reminder that the climate has changed and will continue to change".

"If we continue under a high-emission scenario, we could see temperatures like this every three years," he said.

Read more: 'I just hope our house is still there': Devastating fires break out as UK endures 40C heat

Read more: Thunder and flood warnings after fires rage through homes in Britain's record 40C heat

"We're already committed to a level of warming and these extremes will get more extreme in the future.

"The only way that we can stabilise the climate is by achieving net zero, and of course the UK has made some great strides in that direction already.

"But we want to stabilise the climate at a safe level and that means reaching net zero soon."

The UK has sweltered in a two-day heatwave, with Tuesday provisionally being recorded as the hottest day ever after Coningsby in Lincolnshire reached 40.3C.

Prof Belcher said the weather was evidence of the climate crisis, saying such temperatures were "virtually impossible" without being driven by a changing climate.

"In some ways, of course, 40C is an arbitrary figure because we see the impacts of heatwaves at lower temperatures, but for me it's a real reminder that the climate has changed and it will continue to change," he said.

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"Research conducted here at the Met Office has demonstrated that it's virtually impossible for the UK to experience 40C in an undisrupted climate.

"But climate change driven by greenhouse gases has made these extreme temperatures possible, and we're actually seeing that possibility now."

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The extreme weather experienced on Monday, and especially Tuesday, caused chaos up and down the UK.

At least 18 fires raged in London, including an enormous one in Wennington that left at least one home completely destroyed, and another in Kenton that completely gutted a disused church hall, a car wash, two properties and nine vehicles.

Major incidents were declared by fire crews in placed such as Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Hertfordshire and London as services struggled to cope with surging demand.

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At least 13 people are confirmed to have died in open water in an effort to cool down in the scorching temperatures - including four people under the age of 17.

The hot weather also caused transport chaos, with rail networks closed and roads and runways melting in the extreme heat.