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expert reaction to Thursday 25th July 2019 potentially being the hottest UK day on record

Reaction to the Met Office announcement that the UK’s hottest ever temperature, of 38.7C, was reached on Thursday July 25th.


Prof Hannah Cloke, natural hazards researcher, University of Reading:

“The fact that Thursday’s maximum temperature in Cambridge was the highest ever seen in Britain is an indication of just how dangerous to people these heatwaves can be. At such high temperatures, every extra degree is potentially the difference between life and death to vulnerable people.

“However, just as significant was the wide extent of the extreme heat across the country and throughout the day. That’s what caused so much widespread damage to infrastructure, and meant the hazard was felt not just by people in a small area, but by millions of people across the country.

“As climate change continues to warm up the planet, we will continue to see maximum temperature records being broken.”


Prof Mike Tipton, Professor of Human & Applied Physiology, University of Portsmouth, said:

“If anyone doubts climate change, we have had a lot of evidence recently. Typically, climate change is associated with higher average ambient temperatures and more extreme variations in weather conditions. Today the Tour de France, having been suffering from high temperatures the last few days was cancelled due to snow. In June the Nice Ironman had to be modified due to high temperatures. More and more sports events will be impacted by weather in the coming years.”



Dr Karsten Haustein, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said:

“Given it is a provisional result, it should probably be taken with a grain of salt for the time being, but other than that I guess most of what we’ve already said still applies. It’s been a combination of exceptional weather conditions at the perfect time of the year for heat records. We can’t say a single weather event is due to climate change, but we can look at trends and it seems that climate change is pushing records to the level we’ve seen during the last three days. This is weather on steroids.”

“I think the UK could have reached 40°C yesterday, but cloud cover during the afternoon hours prevented it. What this short but intense episode has shown is that the potential for 40°C is there. While we don’t know when it will happen for the first time (it might very well take another 10 or 20 years), it is very probable that it is eventually going to happen if climate change continues unabated. That said, there will be the cold and damp classic UK summer, but hot episodes will simply occur more often.”


Prof Andrew Charlton-Perez, Professor of Meteorology, University of Reading, said:

“There are a huge range of physical processes which contributed to the temperature extremes we saw yesterday. These include both the large-scale weather patterns that brought the warm air mass over the UK and Europe yesterday but also the smaller-scale, local transfers of energy which can be affected by the presence of clouds and the structure of the layer of air nearest to the Earth’s surface. This combination of physical processes is what make Meteorology such a fascinating and challenging subject for us to study here at Reading. When considering the impacts of very high temperatures on people or on infrastructure it is really important we think not just about the absolute maximum observed on a given day.”


For previous expert comments on the heatwave from earlier this week (including why it happened) please see:


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