Heatwave threshold raised in 8 UK counties as Met Office issues warning

Weather: Temperature to plummet to -5c with some snow

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As average temperatures in the UK climb due to global heating, thresholds that determine heatwaves rise with it. The Met Office defines a heatwave as a location that meets or exceeds daily maximum temperatures for at least three consecutive days, and in the UK, these thresholds vary by county.

Historical climate data is what defines heatwave temperatures, however, the UK has been experiencing rising average temperatures in more recent years due to climate change.

Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre said: “Climate statistics over time reveal an undeniable warming trend for the UK.

“Temperature rise has been greatest across parts of central and eastern England where they have increased by more than 1.0°C in some locations, while further north areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen temperatures rise by closer to 0.7°C.”

The previous threshold was determined using data from 1981 to 2010, but the new limits announced have been extracted from data recorded between 1991 and 2020, according to the Met Office.

Where in the UK has the heatwave threshold increased?

The Met Office has updated the heatwave thresholds in eight counties by 1C.

The counties changing from a 27C to a 28C threshold include Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Cambridgeshire.

Lincolnshire County is moving from a 26C to a 27C threshold, and East Riding of Yorkshire’s threshold is increasing from a 25C to a 26C threshold.

Dr McCarthy said: “Although heatwaves are extreme weather events, research shows that climate change is making these events more likely.

A scientific study by the Met Office into the Summer 2018 heatwave in the UK showed that heatwaves are 30 times more likely to occur now than in 1750.

This is due to the higher concentration of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere.

Dr McCarthy added: “As greenhouse gas concentrations increase, heatwaves of similar intensity are projected to become even more frequent, perhaps occurring as regularly as every other year.”

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The Earth’s surface temperature is reported to have has risen by 1C since the pre-industrial period (1850-1900), and UK temperatures have risen by a similar amount.

The summer of 2018 was recorded to be the equal-warmest summer for the UK along with 2006, 2003 and 1976.

The hottest day of the summer was July 27, with a high of 35.6C recorded at Felsham, Suffolk.

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