UK weather: How many more heatwaves will there be this summer?


The Met Office is not ruling out that there will be more heatwaves this summer.
Forecasters say there is a “greater than normal chance of heatwaves” between the middle and the end of July.
Sunday was the joint hottest day of the year, with temperatures reaching 32.2C in Coningsby, Lincolnshire.
This matched the previous high set on 10 June in Chertsey, Surrey.
Temperatures are set to cool somewhat in the early part of this week, and some showers are forecast, but temperatures will remain in the low to mid-20s in the southeast, with 25C forecast today in London.
Separately, independent forecasters, the Weather Company have said there could be five heatwaves in the UK between now and September, the Daily Mirror reported.

What to Expect in the UK

Many parts of the UK were officially declared in a heatwave by the Met Office on 13 June after a spell of hot weather.
But the Weather Company said further heatwaves could occur in early and late July before two more in August and one in September.
Met Office meteorologist Jonathan Vautrey told the Daily Mirror: “Towards the middle to the end of July, there is an increasing chance that high pressure may become established.
“On balance, northern areas are more likely to see drier conditions, with southern regions seeing greater risk of showers and thunderstorms.
“We can say there is a greater than normal chance of heatwaves for the whole period of the middle to the end of July.”
The Met Office told Yahoo News UK that there is a greater than average chance of heatwaves this summer according to its three-month outlook.
In its forecast for the week, the Met Office said Monday would be a “bright day, with a mixture of sunshine and showers” and still warm in southeast England, with temperatures in the low to mid-20s.

A Look Ahead at Potential Heatwave Occurrences

Between 30 June and 9 July, it said temperatures would generally be around or above average, with rain and showers affecting most areas.
Temperatures have soared above 30C for the first time this year – and meteorologists forecast the chance of Britain experiencing a hot summer is now 45% – 2.3 times the average figure.
The warning leaves the nation braced for a possible repeat of last year’s record-breaking heatwave, which triggered wildfires, disrupted rail transport, closed schools, led to thousands of premature deaths and saw temperatures break the 40C record in the UK for the first time.
However, whether Britain will again experience a breach of the 40C level remains unclear. “There are no strong indications for it,” said a senior Met Office adviser, Mark Bevan. “On the other hand, we saw it last year, so it’s inherently possible. So never say never.”

Bevan said the coming summer’s weather prospects had been calculated using several factors, including the El Niño effect, wind patterns and sea surface temperatures: “If the wind comes predominantly from the north, that will cool the weather. If the sea surface temperature is high, that acts like an electric blanket for the country.”
Based on these factors, forecasters say there is a 5% chance the weather will be cool this summer and a 45% chance it will be hot, the latter figure being 2.3 times higher than usual.
Even if Britain does not experience 40C temperatures this year, it is clear there will be increasing numbers of heatwaves shortly, with damaging consequences. Even healthy people suffer effects at temperatures of over 35C, especially those who have to work outdoors. The impact is worse for older people and those living with respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.
A joint report by the Office for National Statistics and the UK Health Security Agency revealed that last year there were 3,000 more deaths in England and Wales than expected in the summer. Crucially most extra deaths occurred in the over-65s and during the heatwave’s hottest days in late July.

Predicting the Number of Heatwaves

Night temperatures pose an additional problem, added Bevan. “People can recover if you get sweltering days but cool evenings. But if the temperature never dips below 20C at night, that becomes a real problem.”
Forest fires are another concern, with outbreaks already causing devastation this year. Half of the RSPB’s Corrimony nature reserve near Loch Ness was destroyed by a massive blaze earlier this month. “I should be seeing black grouse and curlew chicks emerging from their nests now, but there is just a charred landscape,” said site manager Simon McLaughlin. “Other wildlife, such as adders, lizards and frogs, had no time to escape. It will take hundreds of thousands of pounds to restore this habitat.”
Bevan summed up the national situation: “Last year was the UK’s warmest on record, and that has focused everybody’s attention on the impact of heat. The 2022 heatwave disrupted transport, the emergency services, power supplies and people’s health and we now realise these are impacts that will have to be dealt with regularly in coming years,” he said.

Examining the Likelihood of Heatwaves in the UK

The prime driver of this meteorological chaos is carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas being pumped into the atmosphere by cars, factories and power plants at increasing rates. Between 1960 and 1970, carbon dioxide levels grew at around 1 part per million (ppm). Now, they are rising by about 2.37ppm per year. In 1965, carbon dioxide levels were 320 ppm. This year they have topped 420ppm.
At this rate, the world will soon have heated by more than 1.5C since pre-industrial levels, a temperature that was supposed to be the acceptable upper limit for global warming. The world could heat by almost 3C by the end of the century, triggering ice caps melting, coral reefs’ death and rising ocean levels.
For its part, Britain will experience weather patterns that will become increasingly grim, a point stressed by a study published last week by an international team led by Bath University researchers. It predicts that peak summer temperatures of 41C and weekly averages of 28C will be expected in large parts of southern England towards the end of the century. These figures compare with maximum peaks of 31C and norms of 20C in the 1970s.

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Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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