LONDON ( Associated Press) – Britain on Tuesday broke its record for the highest temperature ever recorded in regions of Europe amid a heat wave – and the national weather forecaster predicted more such extremes It will still be hot in a country prepared for borders.
The generally temperate nation was the latest to be engulfed by unusually hot, dry weather that has sparked wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of flames rushing toward a French beach and Britons – even by the sea – have prompted domestic concerns about climate change.
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The UK Met Office recorded a temp reading of 40.2 °C (104.4 °F) at Heathrow airport in the early afternoon – breaking the record set an hour earlier and with hours of bright sunshine still in place. Prior to Tuesday, the highest temperature recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), which was set in 2019.
As the nation watched the mercury rise with a combination of horror and fascination, the forecaster warned that temperatures could rise higher still.
Hot weather in a country unprepared for such extremes has disrupted travel, health care and schools. Public buildings, including many homes, small businesses and even hospitals, do not have air-conditioning, showing how unusual summer is in a country known for rain and mild temperatures.
Heat has damaged a runway at London’s Luton Airport since Monday, closing it for several hours, and causing a main street in eastern England to resemble a “skatepark”, police said. Major train stations were closed or nearly empty on Tuesday, as trains were canceled or running at low speeds, due to concerns that the train could derail.
The traditional cavalry of the Household Cavalry was cooled by electric wings as they stood guard in central London in heavy ceremonial uniforms. Other guards reduced their duties. The capital’s Hyde Park, which was usually busy with pedestrians, was quite quiet – except for long lines to take a dip in Serpentine Lake.
“I’m going to my office because it’s well and good,” geologist Tom Elliott, 31, said after the swim. “I’m cycling instead of taking the tube.”
Queen Elizabeth II continued to work. The 96-year-old monarch held a virtual audience with the new US ambassador, Jane Hartley, from the security inside Windsor Castle.
A large part of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, remained subject to the country’s first “red” warning for severe heat on Tuesday, meaning even healthy people are at risk of death.
Such threats could be seen in Britain and around Europe. At least six people are reported to have drowned in an attempt to cool rivers, lakes and reservoirs across the UK. Meanwhile, in Spain and neighboring Portugal, about 750 people have died related to heat from the heat.
The highest temperature previously recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), a record set in 2019. Tuesday’s readings were provisional, meaning they are produced in as near real-time as possible with the final readings released after data quality-control, the Met office said.
Climate experts have warned that global warming has increased the frequency of extreme weather events, with studies showing that temperatures in the UK reaching 40 °C (104 F) are now 10 times more likely than in the pre-industrial era. times higher.
The head of the United Nations weather agency hoped that the scorching heat in Europe would serve as a “wake up call” for governments to do more on climate change.
“I expect such events to have an impact on voting behavior even in democratic countries,” World Meteorological Organization secretary-general Petrie Talas told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.
Professor Miles Allen, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford, said the only solution for Britain was to confront climate change, as continually renewing the country’s infrastructure would be “extremely expensive”.
“We can’t always afford to live in a changing environment,” he told the BBC. “We have to stop it, turn it on.”
Droughts and heat waves associated with climate change have also made fighting wildfires difficult.
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In the Gironde region of southwestern France, fierce wildfires continued to spread through tinder-dried pine forests, frustrating firefighting efforts by more than 2,000 firefighters and water-bombing aircraft.
Gironde officials said thousands of people have been evacuated from homes and summer vacation spots since the July 12 fire.
A minor third fire broke out late Monday in the Medoc wine region north of Bordeaux, further taxing firefighting resources. Five camp sites in the Atlantic Coast beach area engulfed in flames around the Archachon Marine Basin famous for its oysters and resorts.
But the weather forecast provided some consolation, with temperatures expected to drop along the Atlantic coast on Tuesday and rain likely to end the day.
Britain was not the only northern European country experiencing unusual heat. As Amsterdam baked in on Tuesday, municipal workers sprayed water on some mechanical bridges over the Dutch city’s canals to avoid expanding metal in them, which could jam the boat traffic blocking them. Temperatures in the city are expected to reach 39 degrees Celsius (102 F) on Tuesday.
Associated Press writers John Leicester in Le Peque, France, Mike Korder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Jamie Keaton in Geneva contributed to this story.