Record 40°C UK Temperatures Linked To Climate Change
Temperatures in the UK have passed 40°C for the first time, with a provisional record of 40.3°C set at Coningsby in Lincolnshire in July 2022. It comes after a provisional record for the hottest night, with a minimum temperature of 25.8°C in Kenley in the London Borough of Croydon, smashing the previous record of 23.9°C in Brighton in 1990.
Extreme heat events occur within natural climate variation due to changes in global weather patterns. However, the WMO points out that the increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of these events over recent decades is clearly linked to the observed warming of the planet and can be attributed to human activity.
A heatwave has blanketed large parts of the country, closing schools, heaping pressure on hospitals, and disrupting transport. Scientists say that a UK temperature of 40°C would be extremely unlikely without climate change and that global warming has made every heatwave more likely and more intense.
Thousands have been forced to flee wildfires in southern France and Spain, and more than 1,000 deaths have been linked to the heat wave in Portugal and Spain since earlier in July 2022 by the countries’ respective health ministries. According to local media, France could experience its hottest day on record in the coming days too.
Scotland set a record for its hottest day ever as well, according to the Met Office, as it reached 34.8 degrees Celsius (94.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Scottish Borders. That was nearly 2 degrees higher than the previous record of 32.9 degrees Celsius from Aug. 9, 2003.
Why is this happening?
The warming is being driven by climate change, experts said. A 2020 study found that temperatures above 35 °C have become increasingly common in the southeast UK. The chances of seeing 40°C days in the country could be as much as ten times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence.
Researchers further added that the likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK is also rapidly increasing. Even with current pledges on emission reductions, such extremes could occur every 15 years in the climate of 2100. Another driver is the plume of exceptionally hot air moving up from Africa via Iberia and France.
The dry soils also exaggerate the temperatures in these regions since dry ground heats up faster than wet ground as energy is not lost to evaporation. A hot-pressure system has been prevailing over Europe for a few days. These systems move in a clockwise direction, sucking up a lot of the hot air into the UK from the Sahara Desert and North Africa. In high-pressure systems, the air falls to the ground. As this happens, cloud formation becomes scarce. According to the American Geosciences Institute, this is because clouds need rising air to form.
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