UK temperature to regularly top 40°C by 2100

Continued greenhouse gas emissions suggest exceedingly rare heatwaves could become regular features of British weather

A street thermometer reads 43°C in Seville, southern Spain. EPA
A street thermometer reads 43°C in Seville, southern Spain. EPA

Temperatures topping 40°C in the UK are likely to become commonplace with continued high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, a new study suggests.

Britain recorded its highest temperature, 38.7°C, in the southeastern city of Cambridge last year, coinciding with a spike in heat-related deaths.

A climate study published in the journal Nature Communications suggested that temperatures above 40°C could occur every 3.5 to 15 years by 2100 in Britain if the world fails to curb climate change.

According to the modelling, the hottest areas are likely to be in the south-east of England, including London – the most densely populated area of the country. The study’s authors say the UK temperature currently reaches 40°C only every 100 to 300 years.

Europe is already preparing for heatwaves but Britain has so far avoided the worst of the sweltering weather compared with the rest of the continent.

France recorded its highest temperature, 46°C, in June 2019 and the heatwave across the country caused the deaths of almost 1,500 people, its government said. Spain suffered some of the worst wildfires for 20 years while Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands had their hottest weather ever.

The heatwave was also linked to a sharp drop in foreign holidays from the UK that might have contributed to the collapse of the 178-year-old travel agency Thomas Cook.

The study’s authors also say temperature rises above 35°C are increasingly common in the UK and could happen every year by 2100. Currently, the spikes occur only every five years.

Updated: July 1, 2020 07:17 PM

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