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expert reaction to UK hot weather and an Extreme Heat Warning issued by the Met Office

An amber warning for extreme heat has been issued by the Met Office due to high temperatures through the day and night.


Prof Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology, University of Reading, said:

“I welcome the decision to issue the first ever heat health warning via the UK Met Office. We are seeing an increasing number of hotter and longer heatwaves occurring in the UK. As we have seen from tragic events in Germany, by giving people time and accurate information, people can prepare themselves for natural hazards, which really can be the difference between life and death.

“Heat really is a silent killer. Unlike floods or hurricanes, which make a lot of noise and cause obvious devastation, heatwaves almost literally creep into people’s homes and kill them in their beds.

“A nationwide heat alert is only just the start. The UK desperately needs a better nationwide heat health plan, to coordinate action to save lives in the future, when we know heatwaves are likely to only become more extreme. We need a plan to design heat-safe buildings and offices, to keep employees safe in the workplace through changed work practices, and to protect vulnerable children and older people in schools, care homes and hospitals.”


Dr Vikki Thompson, Senior Research Associate, School of Geographical Sciences and Cabot Institute for the Environment, University of Bristol, said:

“Over the past few years we have seen many temperature records broken in the UK. On 25 July 2019 the hottest day on record in the UK occurred, with Cambridge Botanic Garden reaching 38.7 °C. In August 2020 34 °C was exceeded somewhere in the UK for 6 consecutive days, with 5 nights where temperatures locally remained above 20 °C. Just a few weeks ago Northern Ireland experienced its hottest day on record with 31.2 °C in Ballywatticock on July 16th. As well as increasing in magnitude, warm spells during the UK summer have more than doubled in length since 1960. As temperature records continue to be regularly broken the impact of heat on our health will increasingly be an issue. 

“Heat waves can have devasting impacts on human health. In the summer of 2020 heatwaves led to an estimated total excess mortality of 2,556. Of these excess deaths 2,244 were in the 65+ years group. Hot weather causes deaths due to cardio and respiratory problems caused by increased strain on the heart and lungs. There are many other impacts – such as to infrastructure and agriculture.

“Although this heat wave has not yet been directly attributed to climate change it is clear that the climate is warming. Heatwaves in the UK are becoming more extreme and more prolonged. Climate change may make the weather conditions that cause heatwaves more likely and more extreme. To quote @FrediOtto (twitter), from Oxford University: “science has shown that every heatwave we experience is now made more intense by human-induced global warming. Every single one.”

“Average summer temperatures are increasing throughout the UK, and more record temperatures are being observed. Heatwaves in the UK are becoming more extreme and more prolonged. Ongoing work at Bristol University is investigating the risk and causes of heatwaves in our changing climate.”


Dr Dann Mitchell, Joint Chair in Climate Hazards, University of Bristol, said:

“A country’s response to a heatwave can go up and down, and populations become complacent in the absence of extreme heat waves, or shocks, in the near past. This happened in Europe in 2003, where up to 50,000 people lost their lives, and seems to have happened to a lesser extent in Western US/Canada this last week, where we will know the total attributable mortality loss due to heat in the next 2-3 months.

“Extreme heat is linked to a number of direct, and indirect health issues. Direct effects, such as heat stroke and cardiovascular failure impact especially the elderly and more vulnerable populations, but indirect effects such as suicide rates, poorer mental health, and car crashes also increase, across all age groups.

“Increased heat waves are amongst the clearest signs of climate change, and we have detected a human influence on specific heat waves for at least the past two decades. We have even detected a climate change signal in the mortality associated with heatwaves, on every continent. All our lines of evidence point towards heat waves becoming more frequent, and more impactful in the future, unless targeted adaptation and mitigation are in place. The new Met Office heat alert system is an excellent step towards that, but in the climate context, these strategies are only a bandage on the much larger problem, which is the increasing heat associated with human emissions of carbon dioxide.”


Dr Michael Byrne, Lecturer in Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of St Andrews & Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, University of Oxford, said:

“Though welcome, the new ‘Extreme Heat Warning’ from the Met office is a stark reminder of the dangerous and accelerating impacts of global warming. Extreme heat is a severe threat to public health that – as pointed out by the Climate Change Committee only last month – the UK is woefully under-prepared to deal with. With London expected to feel like Barcelona by 2050, now is the time to transform UK infrastructure and housing to keep us cool & healthy in a rapidly warming world.” 


Prof Ilan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health at University College London, said:

“The warning is being issued because temperatures could pose a significant danger to human health if we do not take appropriate action. We need to stay out of the sun, drink water regularly, and be alert to signs of our bodies overheating in order to get medical attention rapidly.

“Such heat conditions are in line with what we expect in the UK due to human-caused climate change. Directly linking specific weather to climate change is not easy, but is becoming clearer, meaning that we might be soon be able to connect aspects of this heat wave to climate change. Irrespective, the temperatures being experienced do not exceed human survival if act correctly. If we are careful, then we do not need to see people dying from this heat.”


Dr Rob Thompson, meteorologist at the University of Reading, said:

“Hot temperatures and lots of sunshine continue over most of England today as a result an area of high pressure centred to the west of the UK.

“As is often the case in hot spells in the UK, the heat leads to the danger of intense showers, which could be thundery. Forecasts currently show the sun and heat remaining for most of the week, with the ongoing risk of showers and possibly thunderstorms, particularly in the afternoons.

“Heatwaves are one of the weather extremes that are most easily linked to climate change which is already affecting us here in the UK.

“British heatwaves are already hotter and last longer, compared to just a few decades ago. The hottest day of the year in the UK is on average nearly 1°C warmer now than the average in the period of the 1960s to the 1980s, and extended spells of warm weather last more than double the length. 

“We can expect that extreme summer heatwaves of the type that can kill people in the UK will become a regular occurrence, hitting us on average every other summer by the middle of the century, under current trends of increasing emissions and warming.”



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