Climate breakdown made the recent UK heatwave 10 times more likely, researchers have found. Analysis by World Weather Attribution (WWA) reveals that temperatures in the UK during the heatwave, when it hit 40.3C, were higher than those simulated by climate models. The researchers say extreme temperatures in Western Europe are rising faster than expected. The analysis was conducted by 21 researchers, including scientists from universities and meteorological agencies in Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK, the US, and New Zealand.
On Monday and Tuesday 18 and 19 July, an exceptional heatwave affected large parts of the UK. It was the first time that temperatures of 40°C and above have been forecast in the UK. On Tuesday, 40.3°C was reached in Coningsby in Lincolnshire, breaking the previous maximum temperature record of 38.7°C set in 2019. In Yorkshire, a temperature of 37.5C was recorded in Sheffield on Tuesday, beating the 36.7C registered at Bramham near Leeds a day earlier. The previous record temperature for Yorkshire was 36C, in Wakefield three years ago.
Local records have been broken in 46 stations across the country. Minimum temperatures were also extremely high with 25.8°C provisionally being recorded in Kenley in Surrey, breaking the previous record from 1990 by 1.9°C.
The heatwave was very well forecast, and the UK Met Office issued severe weather warnings well ahead of the heat. A Level 4 UK Health Security Agency Heat Health Alert had been issued for Monday and Tuesday. This level of alert is used when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. At this level, illness may occur among the fit and healthy, not just in high-risk groups.
Meanwhile England has experienced its driest July since 1911 with under 25 per cent of average rainfall occurring. The Met Office made an announcement on Wednesday that there had only been 15.8mm of rain on average across the country over this month. This represents 24 per cent of the usual rainfall in England, while across the UK as a whole, it the eighth driest July since 1836. Figures also showed that England had the driest eight-month period from November 2021 to June 2022 since 1976.
About the World Weather Attribution
Since 2015 the World Weather Attribution initiative has been conducting real-time attribution analysis of extreme weather events as they happen around the world. This provides the public, scientists and decision-makers with the means to make clear connections between greenhouse gas emissions and impactful extreme weather events, such as storms, floods, heatwaves and droughts.
The WWA research and develop scientific tools and methodologies to perform timely and robust assessments of whether and to what extent human-induced climate change played a role in the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events.