Tuesday, Jun 06, 2023

UK Sizzles In Extreme Heatwave, Records Hottest Day Ever

UK Sizzles In Extreme Heatwave, Records Hottest Day Ever

It's so hot that at least two airport runways in the United Kingdom have melted and railway tracks have buckled, affecting flights and train services.

A signboard in England displays extreme weather advisory as the UK faces an unprecedented heatwave
A signboard in England displays extreme weather advisory as the UK faces an unprecedented heatwave Owen Humphreys/PA via AP

The United Kingdom recorded its hottest day ever on Tueday when temperature in Heathrow in London soared to 40.2*C.

It's so hot that at least two airport runways have melted and railway tracks have buckled, forcing cancellation and delays of flights and train services. Trains are running at reduced speeds at several places.

The previous record high temperature was 38.7C, set in 2019 at Cambridge Botanic Garden in eastern England. The Meteorological (Met) Office said the readings are provisional as the temperatures are expected to soar even further with other regions reporting their readings at different times of the day.

The UK is in the grips of an unprecedented heatwave which has also caused a surge of fire incidents in London and power disruption in parts of the kingdom.

The BBC reported, "London Fire Brigade has declared a major incident after a surge in fires, including grassland blazes, across the capital, while there has been power disruption in other parts of England. More than 350 firefighters are tackling fires across London, while all trains have been cancelled between London Euston and Milton Keynes due to a lineside fire - caused when overhead electric cables came down in Harrow."

The country was braced for "unprecedented" temperatures on Tuesday after the ongoing heat wave resulted in the hottest night on record at 26 degrees Celsius in parts of London overnight on Monday.

The Met Office red warning of danger to life from extreme heat remains in place for much of central, northern, and south-east England, including the capital city. At least five people are believed to have drowned after attempting to escape the heat in rivers and lakes.

Rachel Ayers, a Met Office forecaster, said, "Tuesday will be a pretty unprecedented day, with the mercury possibly reaching highs of 41C in spots in England. This will make it the hottest day on record and the first time we have seen temperatures as high as 40C. 

"There are likely to be delays on roads, with road closures, as well as possible delays and cancellations to trains and maybe issues with air travel. This could pose a significant health risk to those stuck on services or roads during the heat."

A high of 38.1C was reached in Suffolk, eastern England, on Monday, just short of the UK record of 38.7C set in 2019. Scotland and Wales are also forecast to see their hottest days on record after a scorching Monday, when the latter set a new high temperature mark at 37.1C.

Network Rail issued a "do not travel" warning for Tuesday, affecting services travelling through the "red zone" under the Met Office warning map.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK's rail network could not cope with the extreme heat, adding that it would take "many years" before upgrades would mean services could handle the hotter climate.

He said, "The simple answer is no, the network cannot cope with the heat right now. In 40*C heat, tracks can reach 50*C, 60*C, and even 70*C, and there's a severe danger of tracks buckling and a terrible derailing. We are building new specifications, creating overhead lines that can withstand higher temperatures. But with the best will in the world, this is infrastructure which has taken decades to build, with some of our railways stretching back 200 years."

The country’s infrastructure structured around cold temperatures has struggled to cope with the extreme heat since the weekend. 

There have been warnings of pressure on hospitals and ambulance services as temperatures are set to peak on Tuesday. Monday saw a number of schools close ahead of a scheduled annual summer break.

Water companies in southern and eastern England have warned increased demand is leading to low pressure, and even interrupted supply, for some households.

According to experts, heatwaves are becoming more likely and more extreme because of human-induced climate change. The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began, and temperatures are set to keep rising unless sharp cuts are made to carbon emissions.

British experts have credited current extreme temperatures to climate change.

The BBC reported Met Office Chief of Science and Technology Prof. Stephen Belcher as saying that exceeding 40*C was "virtually impossible" in an undisrupted climate, but due to climate change "driven by greenhouse gasses", such extreme temperatures had become a reality. He further said if there continued to be high emissions, "we could see temperatures like this every three years".

(With PTI inputs)