The second heatwave to hit the UK this summer has brought with it a boom in ice cream sales, in which small businesses are struggling to meet demand.
But the surge in temperatures has also led to an “exceptional” risk of wildfires in parts of southern England and Wales, as well as a health warning for the vulnerable.
A spokeswoman for Mrs Dowsons Ice Cream said the company has been “really busy with orders”, which have doubled due to the heatwave.
Julia Lewis, of L Lewis ice cream company in Chester, said: “It’s just an escalation of getting busier, as people are running out of stocks and wanting more supply.
“They’ve come to the stage where they need replenishing quicker. There’s more stock going and there’s more orders.”
The Met Office’s Fire Severity Index, an assessment of how severe a fire could become, has been raised to level 5 – the highest level – for south-western parts of Britain, with the danger highest on Sunday.
Millions of people on Thursday awoke to the beginning of a four-day “extreme heat” warning, a period during which temperatures in parts of Britain will reach at least 37°C. Vulnerable people are at risk of adverse health effects, while the wider population may suffer from heat exhaustion, the Met Office said. There is also an increased risk of water and fire-related incidents during the hot spell, given that many people will flock to lakes, rivers and the seaside and light up barbecues.
Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna said the chance of wildfires was high.
“The risk is very high across much of central, southern and eastern England,” he said.
“Going into Friday and the weekend, it starts to increase further, going into the highest category of exceptional risk.”
Satellite images of parts of the UK show the effects of hotter-than-normal conditions and minimal rainfall.
Parts of mainland Europe are suffering from drought, which has caused sections of major rivers to dry up.
More than 100 communities in France have run out of water, leaving desperate residents to rely on lorry deliveries. Wildfires are spreading fast across the country, with thousands of firefighters posted to battle the flames. About 8,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes.
The Rhine, which is vital to the German economy as it serves as an important shipping route, is close to running dry in sections. Low water has for weeks been delaying the transport of vessels carrying freight.
Severe drought in Spain has left the country’s reservoirs running at only 40 per cent capacity.
The UK’s Health Security Agency has issued an alert, with experts advising people to look out for the elderly, children and those with existing medical conditions as another unusually hot spell begins.
The second heatwave of the summer comes after temperatures in July smashed records as the mercury climbed to 40.3°C. The UK has endured the driest first seven months of the year in decades and hot spells have parched grassland and prompted hosepipe bans. Experts have also warned of risks to wildlife and agriculture.
Latest analysis from the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) has issued a warning that low or exceptionally low river flows and groundwater levels are likely to continue for the next three months in southern England and Wales.
Mr Petagna said rain could fall early next week.
“There are signs that we could get some rain next week, but details at the moment are uncertain,” he said.
“What we really need is a few weeks of light rain to soak into the ground.
“Thunderstorms are more likely to cause some flooding issues — because the ground is hard, the water can’t sink in.”