Britain swelters on its hottest day as heat wave sweeps across Europe

A woman cools herself with a portable fan, during a heatwave, in London, Britain. Photo: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

London: Britain recorded its hottest day ever on Tuesday, with the temperature exceeding 40C (104F) as a heatwave gripping Europe intensified, forcing train tracks to buckle and fuelling a spate of fires across London.

The Met Office said a new provisional record temperature of 40.3C (104.5F) was recorded in Coningsby, in central England, with 34 sites across the country experiencing temperatures in excess of the previous high of 38.7C (101.7F) recorded in 2019.

London heat
A member of the Queen's Guard receives water to drink during the hot weather, outside Buckingham Palace in London. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

Stephen Belcher at the Met Office said he had not expected to see such temperatures in Britain in his career.

"Research conducted here at the Met Office has demonstrated that it's virtually impossible for the UK to experience 40C in an undisrupted climate but climate change driven by greenhouse gases has made these extreme temperatures possible," he said.

Train services on major routes from London up the east and west coast of the country were cancelled, electricity companies reported mass outages and normally busy city centres appeared quiet. Network Rail tweeted a number of pictures showing large bends and kinks in rail tracks.

London Fire Brigade declared a major incident and urged people to stop having barbecues, as hundreds of firefighters battled blazes across the capital.

To the east, a large fire engulfed homes in the village of Wennington, with flames tearing across about 40 hectares (100 acres) of neighbouring tinder-dry fields. Elsewhere large grassland areas around the capital caught fire, billowing smoke over major roads and nearby areas.

London's Ambulance Service said it had been dealing with 400 calls an hour because of the extreme heat.

Britain heat
A woman drinks water as she travels on the London Underground during a heatwave in London. Photo: Reuters/Maja Smiejkowska

"We are seeing an increase in the number of patients experiencing heat exposure, breathing difficulties, dizziness and fainting," said Peter Rhodes, the deputy director of ambulance operations.

Britain, which can struggle to maintain key transport services in extreme heat or snow, had been put on a state of national emergency over the unprecedented temperatures.

Britain heat
Firefighters tackle a grass fire during the heatwave in Mow Cop, Staffordshire, Britain. Photo: Reuters/Carl Recine

"My thanks go to all the firefighters and frontline services who are working incredibly hard to keep us safe on this scorching day," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter.

Curb on travel

Transport minister Grant Shapps said there had been a considerable amount of travel disruption.

"Infrastructure, much of which was built from the Victorian times, just wasn't built to withstand this type of temperature," he said.

Operator Network Rail advised passengers to only travel if absolutely necessary.

"Extreme Heat: All services stopped. Do not come to the station," Avanti West Coast, which runs services from London to cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, said on Twitter.

Climate scientists said the once-unthinkable temperature in London was likely to become more common in coming years.

Europe heat
Residents at the Ter Biest house for elderly persons dip their feet in a pool as a heat wave hits Europe, in Grimbergen, Belgium. Photo: Reuters/Yves Herman

Sony Kapoor, a climate and macro-economic professor at European University Institute, said he had long thought that people underestimated the physical impacts of climate change in contemporary times. "But even I never thought we would see 40 degree Celsius in London in 2022," he said.

Europe heat
A view shows a wildfire burning from the Valmediano eolic park, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain. Photo: Reuters/Isabel Infantes/File Photo

The arrival of a searing heatwave that first sparked wildfires across Europe before arriving in Britain has turned the spotlight on "net zero" pledges made by the candidates running to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

Europe heat
A firefighter creates a tactical fire in Louchats, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of southwestern France. Photo: Reuters/Sarah Meyssonnier

After Johnson championed the move to net zero status when Britain held the United Nations COP26 climate change summit in 2021, some of the candidates to replace him appeared more lukewarm and rated other challenges facing the country as their priority.

After Tuesday's heat, the Met Office said the temperature would fall on Wednesday, however, it warned there could be heavy thunderstorms. 

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.