Hottest day on record
The Met Office – national meteorological service for the United Kingdom – reported record-breaking heat in the U.K. yesterday (July 19, 2022). Temperatures climbed above 104 degrees F (40 degrees C) for the first time ever recorded. Among other effects, many schools closed. Doctors’ offices were shut. And train service was limited for fear the tracks would buckle.
Stephen Belcher, the Met’s chief of science and technology, said in a video posted on Twitter:
It’s a real reminder that the climate has changed and will continue to change. I wasn’t expecting to see this in my career.
The previous heat record for the U.K. – 38.7°C (101.7°F) – was set in 2019.
That record was first broken yesterday at 10:40 a.m. local time in Surrey, with a reading of 39.1°C (102.4 °F). Surrey’s record was surpassed about two hours later, when a temperature of 40.2°C (104.4°F) was recorded at 12:50 p.m. local time at London’s Heathrow airport.
Scotland also recorded its highest ever temperature, according to Met Office, reaching 34.8°C (94.6° F) in Charterhall in the Scottish Borders.
Cooler weather for some
The Met Office also said that, although July 19 would be an exceptionally hot day for many, particularly in central and eastern England:
…it will become cloudier and less hot as we go through the day in the west with a chance of a few showers or thunderstorms. The thunderstorm risks move to the east of England later this afternoon with the potential some isolated heavy showers, gusty winds and lightning.
Temperatures are expected to start to return closer to normal for the time of year as we go through the rest of the week with cooler air pushing across the country from the west.
?? For the first time ever, 40 Celsius has provisionally been exceeded in the UK
London Heathrow reported a temperature of 40.2°C at 12:50 today
— Met Office (@metoffice) July 19, 2022
Britons coping with record-breaking heat
Britons aren’t used to this kind of heat. Few homes – about 5% – have air-conditioning. Of special concern are the elderly, among the most at risk for health complications from the heat. Many residential nursing homes are located in older buildings without air conditioning.
On Monday, to cope with the heat wave, the government urged people to work from home. Many schools closed. Doctors’ offices were shut. The British Museum first closed off its upper galleries, then later closed the entire museum.
The impact has been evident across the country and beyond. Network Rail told passengers on Tuesday not to travel north out of London to a weather ‘red zone,’ warning that rails could buckle under the brutal temperatures.
The Guardian also reported that 14,500 homes and businesses in the UK were without power, after the sizzling temperatures caused transformers and other equipment to overheat.
And frighteningly, fires have been breaking over London. The Guardian reported:
Firefighters have described blazes tearing through homes and buildings in London as ‘absolute hell’ with residents evacuated, people taken to hospital and a major incident declared.
NEW: London Fire Brigade has just declared a Major Incident in response to a huge surge in fires across the capital today.
This is critical: @LondonFire is under immense pressure. Please be safe.
I'm in touch with the Commissioner and will share updates when I have them.
— Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (@MayorofLondon) July 19, 2022
Met Office forecasters expect temperatures will start to return closer to normal for the time of year later this week, with cooler air pushing across the country from the west.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S. a heat dome has been building over large parts of the west, including EarthSky’s hometown of Austin, Texas. As of today, the National Weather Service says that dangerous heat will continue over a large portion of the U.S. this week, with now more than 100 million people under excessive heat advisories and warnings.
Met Office Chief of Science and Technology, Professor Stephen Belcher, reflects on the UK breaching 40°C for the first time pic.twitter.com/d57FGJx8To
— Met Office (@metoffice) July 19, 2022
Bottom line: Record-breaking heat was reported in the UK yesterday (July 19, 2022). According to the Met Office, temperatures climbed above 40°C (104°F) for the first time ever.