Monday, August 8, 2022

Britain braces for record heatwave temperatures

Britain braces for record heatwave temperatures
July 18, 2022 Web Desk

TANKERTON, United Kingdom (AFP) - Britain on Monday braced for another day of soaring temperatures, with predictions that the country could see its hottest day in history as people tried to find ways to stay cool.

The mercury was set to rise to highs of 38 Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) in London, as a heatwave that has been building since last week showed no let-up.

But the country's meteorological agency the Met Office said temperatures could get even hotter on Tuesday, breaching the 40C mark for the first time. Britain's current record temperature stands at 38.7C, which was reached at Cambridge Botanic Garden in eastern England on July 25, 2019.

"It is a bit frightening, I think, definitely... what it's going to do to us, to the world," Karina Lawford told AFP of the potentially record-breaking heat, as she took a mid-morning stroll by the sea in Tankerton on the north Kent coast.

Lawford, 56, grew up in the area before moving to Australia 18 years ago, and was making a return visit. But she said the weather, which has seen water levels plummet in reservoirs in some parts of the country, reminded her of life down under with the extreme temperatures.

The Kent coastline southeast of the UK capital is several degrees cooler and with its on-shore breeze was attracting plenty of people eager for some respite. "We enjoy it, we're just apprehensive of the effects that it will have, so we try to be sensible and drink lots and stay covered," said Ceri Sherlock, as she celebrated her daughter's fourth birthday with a beach trip.

"I think it is a sign of what's to come, that's of huge concern for the future, for these guys," she added, gesturing at her daughter.

'Astounding' 

Earlier, chief meteorologist Paul Davies warned there was a "good chance now of hitting 40C or 41C" on Tuesday. "This is entirely consistent with climate change," he told Sky News, describing the "brutality" of the expected heat as "astounding".

"It does worry me a lot, and my colleagues... that this sort of unprecedented heat could become a regular occurrence by the end of the century."

Nigel Arnell, professor of climate system science at the University of Reading, said modelling and projections suggested heatwaves would get worse and more frequent. As such, infrastructure needed to be adapted.

"We really need to up the game in terms of adaptation and resilience in the UK and in other countries," he told reporters.

The Met Office last week issued its first ever red extreme heat warning for large swathes of England, coming into effect Monday. An amber warning -- the next level down -- has been in place for much of the nation and neighbouring Wales since Sunday and was extended to parts of southern Scotland.

Some schools have closed while train passengers were asked not to travel on Monday and Tuesday, with speed restrictions in place on some lines. Network Rail, which is responsible for rail infrastructure, said the main east coast route out of London King's Cross to York and Leeds would be shut between 1100 GMT and 1900 GMT on Tuesday.

Operations director Sam MacDougall said closure was the last resort but was necessary given the extreme heat. "The forecast temperatures are well above those which our infrastructure is designed for, and safety must come first," he added.

The government's emergency contingencies committee met Sunday, as hospitals said services would be stretched to the limit in the coming days.

The government urged people to be sensible but back in Tankerton, some were taking it in their stride. "Just get on with it, be sensible," said plumber Dave Williams, 64, unimpressed with the wall-to-wall coverage of the heatwave. "If it ain't Brexit, if it ain't the weather, we don't know what else to talk about," he told AFP.