This week’s heatwave may have led to the deaths of as many as 1,000 people, one expert claimed (Picture: Getty/PA)
Britain is set to swelter in hotter and longer heatwaves than the one this week – with the first 40°C day expected within the next decade, scientists have warned.
Climate modelling has long suggested that as global temperatures rise, parts of the country are far more likely to record increasingly high temperatures in years to come – which is likely to kill thousands of people.
Temperatures in the 40s are also likely to hit water supplies, the economy and transport network, as the climate crisis hits the UK.
Reading University’s Chloe Brimicombe, a heatwave hazards researcher, said the recent hot weather was likely to be easily outshone by more intense heat in years to come.
‘Southern England could see its first 40°C day within the next ten years’, she told The Sunday Times.
‘Most of our rail network would not be able to run in those sorts of temperatures.
‘We would see increased pressure on water resources, productivity would be reduced, and it could affect our livestock and our crops.’
Hot weather is likely to hit the economy, experts warn (Picture: Getty Images)
The record high for the UK, of 38.7°C, was recorded in July 2019 in Cambridge – with Northern Ireland’s breaking its record this week according to provisional stats.
Records are also tumbling worldwide, with the warmest six years on record coming since 2015.
And as temperatures rise globally, the UK is almost certain to see more intense heat, too.
Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics, believe this week’s heat – in which temperatures only reached 32.2°C – is likely to have killed 1,000 people.
At least 27 people have died in the heatwave from accidents (Picture: PA)
Mr Ward told The Times: ‘If we had a flood that killed 2,500 people there would be an outcry. This is a natural disaster but we do not look at it that way.
‘The reality is that we are not set up for it in this country.
‘Other hotter countries do not see the same mortality that we do. But this is going to become more frequent and we need to start to prepare. At 40°C even healthy people will not survive. Construction workers, agriculture workers — anyone who is working outdoors is at risk.’
The warnings come amid a string of extreme weather events across the world – with unprecedented flooding battering parts of China and Europe and wildfires devastating parts of the USA in recent days.
In the UK, the Met Office warned last year that parts of the UK could see 40°C days every three-four years, if greenhouse gases continue to be emitted at a high rate.
Brits sweltered in the heat this week and headed for the beach (Picture: PA)
But it did say the chances of the UK’s current climate breaking the 40°C mark are ‘extremely low’.
If emissions are reduced dramatically, the temperature rises could be contained – but are unlikely to change much until after 2050.
Dr Rob Thompson, a meteorologist at the University of Reading, said: ‘British heatwaves are already hotter and last longer, compared to just a few decades ago. The hottest day of the year in the UK is on average nearly 1°C warmer now than the average in the period of the 1960s to the 1980s, and extended spells of warm weather last more than double the length.
‘We can expect that extreme summer heatwaves of the type that can kill people in the UK will become a regular occurrence, hitting us on average every other summer by the middle of the century, under current trends of increasing emissions and warming.’
The UK hosts the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow this November – a conference seen as a pivotal moment in global efforts to battle climate change.
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