Watch: Met Office issues first ever red warning for extreme heat
The Met Office today issued its first ever “red” warning for extreme heat.
The warning applies to Monday and Tuesday, with swathes of the UK expected to face temperatures in the high 30s. However, the Met Office added there is a 50% chance the mercury could reach 40C in parts of the country, which would smash the 38.7C record set in Cambridge in 2019.
And spokesman Grahame Madge said: “This is potentially a very serious situation.”
For people of a certain age, today's warning will bring back memories of the notorious 1976 heatwave.
To this day, the sheer and consistent heat between June and August of that year remains a benchmark by which UK heatwaves are judged.
It was the summer when temperatures exceeded 32C somewhere in the UK on 15 consecutive days, starting on 23 June. It was also the sunniest summer on record, with 669 hours of sunshine.
The heatwave saw a then-record temperature of 35.9C set in Cheltenham on 3 July, which remains one of the hottest days on record. Meanwhile, the heatwave saw a record June temperature - 35.6C in Southampton - which remains to this day.
Looking back on that summer, Richard Gibbs told The Telegraph during the 2018 heatwave: “Every summer from when I was very young, we used to go on holiday to Cornwall. Even though it’s 42 years ago, I very much remember the fact that every day it was clear blue sky and quite hot," he said with slight understatement.
Londoner Fiona Stein added: “Very few places had air conditioning, so those that did actually advertised it as something that might attract people in. People were flocking to the cinema, to any restaurant that had air conditioning.”
The summer is also remembered for severe drought, which was characterised by stand pipes in the street and rationing. There was even the appointment of a government minister for drought.
Archive footage of an ITV news report shows a reporter telling the camera at a Welsh reservoir: "Where I'm standing now, at this time of year, I should be well underwater. But this reservoir, like others in the area, is just a puddle."
Parts of the South West went an astonishing 45 days without any rain. However, the UK's drought wasn't caused by the 1976 heatwave alone. As the Met Office pointed out in 2018, the drought "came after a previous sunny summer of ’75 and also a very dry 12-month period".
Nonetheless, the 1976 heatwave still played a major part in the most significant period of drought - May 1975 to August 1976 - since Met Office records began.