Wednesday, February 21

Met Office issues first ever red extreme heat warning

The public has been warned that it will not be safe next week to go outside and “play in the sun”, as the Met Office issued an unprecedented warning about the imminent heatwave.

A “red warning” has been declared across England as the forecaster said national temperature records would likely be broken on Monday or Tuesday next week.

While such warnings have previously been issued for storms, one has never been declared over heat. There is a 50 per cent chance that temperatures of more than 40C will be seen, forecasters said, the first time this has been predicted for the UK.

The heat is expected to put more pressure on already overstretched emergency services, disrupt daily routines and lead to travel delays as experts warned of “unprecedented” weather conditions.

The UK’s first ever national heat health emergency is set to bring “potential effects on transport systems, food, water, energy supplies and businesses”, the UK Health Security Agency said.

Temperatures of 41C were forecast at Heathrow Airport, more than two degrees higher than the current record of 38.7C set in 2019 in Cambridge.

Two days of very hot weather with a “tropical night” in between, where temperatures do not fall below 20C, are expected to lead to widespread health problems, including heat exhaustion and heatstroke, particularly among the elderly. Hospitals cancelled routine operations and appointments in preparation.

In an apocalyptic video posted online, Professor Penny Endersby, chief executive at the Met Office, warned that the UK was not prepared.

She said, “We’ve seen when climate change has driven such unprecedented severe weather events all around the world it can be difficult for people to make the best decisions in these situations because nothing in their life experience has led them to know what to expect.

Here in the UK we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in the sun. This is not that sort of weather. Our lifestyles and our infrastructure are not adapted to what is coming.