Topline

Temperatures across the UK are expected to hit an all-time high Monday, with the nation’s Met Office issuing a ‘red’ warning for extreme heat amid a dangerous heat wave engulfing the country—and parts of Europe—that has forced several transport services, businesses and schools to shut.

Key Facts

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Weather officials at the Met Office have forecast temperatures of 40°C (104°F) or higher in parts of the UK and issued their most severe warning for “exceptional heat”—both for the first time ever.

Met Office chief Penny Endersby urged people to take the warnings seriously, saying the high temperatures “are unprecedented” and could cause several deaths if the advice is ignored.

Britain’s national railway network said trains will travel at lower speeds and several routes will offer less frequent service over the next two days amid concerns that the extreme heat could cause damage to steel tracks.

Several schools across the south of England are closedwhile some hospitals have canceled routine appointments and elective surgeries due to the risks posed by high temperatures.

UK cabinet minister Kit Malthouse pushed back against suggestions that the government was ill-prepared for the heat wave and told BBC Radio 4 that the country wasn’t “stopping–we’re adapting.”

Big Number

38.7°C (101.6°F). That is the current record for the highest ever temperature in the UK and it was registered at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden in 2019. Temperatures in some parts of the UK may reach as high as 43°C on Monday.

Chief Critic

Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the opposition Labor Party tweeted: “Ministers have gone missing in action. We need urgent guidance for safe indoor working temperatures, and the Government must ensure employers allow staff to work flexibly in this heat. Where is their plan to keep people safe?"

Key Background

The record-breaking temperatures in the UK is part of a larger heat wave engulfing parts of Western Europe. The extreme heat has triggered forest fires in Portugal, Spain, France and Greece. The situation in the UK is made worse by the fact that buildings in the country are not designed for hot weather and the use of air conditioning is extremely rare—especially in residential buildings. According to a 2008 study, only 0.5% of homes in the UK have an AC. Several experts are attributing the unusually high temperatures to climate change. Dr Nikos Christidis, the UK Met Office's climate attribution scientist, said due to climate change the chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK are 10 times higher than normal. Even Malthouse conceded that the “way buildings are constructed in the UK” may require a rethink.