The Met Office has issued its first red warning for extreme heat, warning of a “potentially very serious situation” in parts of England.
Forecasters say there is an 80% chance of the mercury topping the UK’s record temperature of 38.7C (101.7F) set in Cambridge in 2019, with the current heatwave set to peak on Tuesday.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said there is a 50% chance of temperatures reaching 40C somewhere in the UK, likely along the A1 corridor.The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from level three to level four – a “national emergency”.
Level four is reached “when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system…. At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups”, it said.
Mr Madge added: “We’ve just issued a red warning for extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday which is the first such warning ever issued.
“This is potentially a very serious situation.”
— Met Office (@metoffice) July 15, 2022
He said computer modelling had been “firming up around just how intense the heat will be for Monday and Tuesday, with the emphasis on Tuesday”.
“It’s now considered 80% chance we will see the all-time UK record broken,” Mr Madge said on Friday morning.
“There’s stronger indications now of 50% chance of seeing 40C being observed somewhere in the UK, and most likely that would be within the red warning area for extreme heat.
“Probably the most likely areas to look at would be north of London and up to Lincolnshire, inland.
“Somewhere like Peterborough, Grantham, Sandy, Stevenage, those sorts of areas, A1 corridor.”
He said temperatures reaching 40C would be “historic”.
“If we get to 40C, that’s a very iconic threshold and shows that climate change is with us now,” he said.
“This is made much more likely because of climate change.”
Mr Madge said if people have vulnerable relatives or neighbours, “now is the time to make sure they’re putting suitable measures in place to be able to cope with the heat”.
“Because if the forecast is as we think it will be in the red warning area, then people’s lives are at risk,” he said.
“This is a very serious situation.”
Meanwhile, motorists have been told to try and make their journeys outside of the hottest times of the day, particularly if they have older cars.
Sean Sidley, AA patrol of the year, said: “There are reports of road gritters being out (with sand) this weekend to reduce the chances of our roads melting.
“If it does get sticky on the roads, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a jam with the mercury rising, so make sure you carry plenty of water – at least a litre per person – and sufficient fuel, or if you’re driving an electric vehicle (EV) make sure you have plenty of charge so you can use the air conditioning when needed.”
Tim Doran, from the RNLI Water Safety Team, said the service is anticipating a “busy weekend” at the coast for its lifeboat crews and lifeguards.
“If you are planning on going to the beach, we would encourage you to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags,” he said.