What do the different heatwave levels mean? Met Office issues level three

·3-min read
What do the different heatwave levels mean? Met Office issues level three

The Met Office has issued a level three heatwave alert for England from Tuesday until Saturday this week.

Londoners have also been told to brace for grassfires as temperatures are expected to hit 32C, amid a dry month with little rain.

Last month, the Met Office issued a Red warning for exceptional heat for the first time ever, as temperatures a hit 40C.

People were recommended to “look out for those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated,” according to the NHS, and to avoid drinking excess alcohol.

Here’s exactly what the warning means, along with what the other heatwave levels mean.

What do the Met Office’s heatwave levels mean?

The Met Office will sometimes issue weather warnings if temperatures exceed certain levels. These are predominantly to help healthcare services and workers to manage through these periods.

“Should thresholds for an alert be reached outside of this period, an extraordinary heat-health alert will be issued and stakeholders are advised to take the usual public health actions,” the Met Office website states.

There are five levels in place, here’s what they are and what they mean:

Level 0

The first level entails long-term planning in order to avoid the risks and complications involved with heatwaves, along with “year-round joint working to reduce the impact of climate change” and discovering ways to adapt to the temperatures.

It mainly exists to remind authorities of the importance and need for planning ahead for the warmer periods.

Level 1 - Green — Summer preparedness and long-term planning

The Met Office uses level 1 throughout summer, in order to stay vigilant as temperatures rise. Social and healthcare services will be working to ensure that they are prepared for extreme weather.

Level 2 - Yellow — Alert and readiness

The level 2 alert is rolled out when the risk is “60% or above for threshold temperatures being reached in one or more regions on at least two consecutive days and the intervening night”.

This is when social and healthcare services will be on high alert and working to try and ensure the heatwave does not cause harm to people and patients.

Level 3 - Amber — Heatwave action

The Met Office has triggered a level 3 heatwave warning to parts of the UK. This is when the threshold temperature has been reached for one full day and the following night, while the following day also has a 90% chance of hitting the threshold temperature again.

Healthcare and social services and workers will now be rolling out actions to protect high-risk groups who may not fare well in soaring temperatures.

According to the NHS website, those most at risk include:

  • Older people – especially those over 75

  • Those who live on their own or in a care home

  • People who have a serious or long-term illness – including heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson's disease or some mental health conditions

  • Those who may find it hard to keep cool – babies and the very young, the bedbound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer's disease

  • People who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places – those who live in a top floor flat, the homeless or those whose jobs are outside

Level 4 - Red – National Emergency

The fourth and final warning level means a heatwave has continued for so long at such high temperatures that its effects “extend outside the health and social care system”.

The Met Office warns that death and illness may occur among the fit and healthy at this stage, as well as in high-risk groups.

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