New temperature record set for UK in heatwave, Met Office confirms

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

A new temperature record for the UK was set on Thursday as a heatwave gripped the country, the Met Office has confirmed.

A temperature of 38.7C (101.66F) was recorded at Cambridge University Botanic Garden on Thursday, exceeding the previous record of 38.5C (101.3F) set in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003.

(PA Graphics)

The figure was first announced as a provisional temperature on Friday and has now been validated by the Met Office observations team.

It means the UK joins Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands in breaking national records as exceptionally high temperatures gripped large parts of central and western Europe last week.

The new official record was taken at the Botanic Garden, which houses a Met Office climate observation site that reports every 24 hours, prompting the release of the provisional figure.

It has been subject to quality control and analysis over the past few days and has now been confirmed as a new official record for the hottest temperature seen in the UK.

The Met Office said some observation sites report monthly, so there is still a chance even higher temperatures have been recorded from the heatwave, which saw much of the country sweltering in unusually hot conditions and causing disruption to transport.

Experts warn that global warming, caused by human activities such as burning fossil fuels that are increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is making heatwaves more likely and more intense.

A study from the Met Office previously showed last year’s summer heatwave was made around 30 times more likely than it would be under natural conditions as a result of human activity driving global warming.

Dr Mark McCarthy, from the Met Office National Climate Information Centre, said: “Historically UK summer heatwaves would typically tend to peak in the low 30s Celsius, with extreme events reaching the mid-30s.

“The UK climate has been warming since the mid-20th century, and this has been accompanied by similar increase in the hottest day of the year, which for the most recent decade has been 0.8C higher when compared with the period 1961-1990.

“Climate change has increased the likelihood and severity of heatwave episodes across Europe, which will have also increased the risks of a 40C temperature event in the UK.”

Professor Peter Stott, from the Met Office, said that while average global temperatures have risen by around 1C since the Industrial Revolution, some areas have warmed more quickly, with North Africa seeing rises of 2C.

He said: “This can have a marked effect on UK weather because when the weather patterns, like we saw last week, bring air from this region to our shores, it can bring a stronger signal of climate change with it too, boosting temperatures.

“The UK receives influences from other neighbouring regions and as many of these regions are warming at a faster rate than the UK, our climate can receive a greater boost from climate change.”

The Government’s advisory Committee on Climate Change has warned the UK is not prepared for the increase in heatwaves that is expected with global warming.

Earlier this summer, it called for more action to make sure homes and other buildings such as hospitals and care facilities can be comfortable and safe in higher temperatures.