When will the next record-breaking heatwave hit Britain?

Expert warns that yesterday’s high temperatures are ‘just the beginning’

The smouldering ruins of houses following a large blaze in Wennington, Greater London
The smouldering ruins of houses following a large blaze in Wennington, Greater London
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Experts say there could be another heatwave in Britain as early as next month, after wildfires blazed across the country with temperatures soaring to a historic high of 40.3°C.

On a day described as a “game-changer” by a fire chief, there were major blazes in several regions including Leicestershire, Yorkshire and Norfolk. In London, firefighters had their busiest day since World War Two, said The Mirror.

Hundreds of train services were cancelled due to damage to overheard wires, tracks and signalling systems, while flights were diverted from Luton airport after heat “melted the runway”.

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Just the beginning?

As temperatures return to more comfortable levels, Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London and a climate activist, warned that this week’s conditions are “just the beginning”.

Writing for The Guardian, he predicted that “when our children are our age, they will yearn for a summer as ‘cool’ as 2022” because “long before the century’s end, 40°C-plus heat will be nothing to write home about” in the “climate-mangled world they inherit”.

Summers are “set to get ever hotter and last longer, overwhelming the other seasons”, he wrote. People will sleep in gardens and parks as “baking nights make sleeping indoors impossible”. Transport and energy infrastructure will “succumb repeatedly” and “health and wellbeing services will buckle”.

With demand for food rising but crop yields plummeting there will be “widespread hunger, social unrest and civil strife” with the UK “unlikely to be immune”.

August heatwave?

More immediately, the next heatwave could hit Britain in August, according to the Met Office.

The chief meteorologist, Paul Davies, said that another spell of high temperatures later in summer could be on the cards. Speaking to Sky News, he said “you just can’t rule out another plume.”

The Met explained that very hot weather could return soon because a “heat dome” – a slow-moving area of high pressure from North Africa – remains in place above Portugal, Spain and France, said National World.

If there is a “wobble” in this dome, said the Met, another plume of heat could reach the UK, potentially causing another heatwave.

Professor Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading, told the i news site there was a “distinct possibility” of hot spells next month.

She added that it is “difficult to say” whether this week’s extreme temperatures will be repeated in August. “It’s quite a long way off and I haven’t seen anything that looks like 40°C,” she said, but added: “That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

Every three years?

Taking a slightly longer-term view, another expert at the Met Office said that the extreme temperatures that Britain sweltered in this week could come around on a regular cycle, noted The Guardian.

Chief of science, Prof Stephen Belcher, said that “if we continue under a high emissions scenario we could see temperatures like these every three years”.

He added that: “The only way that we can stabilise the climate is by achieving net zero.”

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