Brits are bracing for searing heat as an amber heat warning comes into effect today – before the first-ever red warning for extreme heat is implemented tomorrow.
‘Furnace Britain’ will be hotter than Delhi and the Sahara Desert on Monday with experts predicting the mercury could reach 41C – double the UK summer average.
Yesterday, Ministers held a Cobra meeting to discuss the health effects of the heatwave after a national emergency was declared – but warned schools not to close.
It is the UK’s first red extreme heat warning as temperatures soar towards 40C for the first time on record. Meteorologists have given an 80 per cent chance of the mercury topping the UK’s record of 38.7C, set in Cambridge in 2019.
The same meteorologists are given a 50-50 chance of the 40C barrier being passed in Britain on Monday or Tuesday.
There are fears thousands could die and the health service has put on extra ambulance capacity and more 111 call handlers.
A body was pulled from the water at Salford Quays last night as Brits turn to swimming to attempt to cool off during the heat.
Met Office Chief Executive Penny Endersby said: ‘Here in the UK we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in the sun. This is not that sort of weather.’
Pictured: Bournemouth beach was packed yesterday as the weather gets better by the day and the temperatures soar this weekend
Eight-year-old miniature schnauzer Ringo (left) cools off in his paddling pool in Emsworth, Hampshire as eight-month-old brother George considers whether to dip his paws in the water
Health Secretary Steve Barclay urged the public to look out for vulnerable relatives and neighbours and urged people to take ‘sensible steps in terms of water, shade and cover’.
After chairing the Cobra meeting, Cabinet Office Minister Kit Malthouse warned there would be significant disruption to transport at the start of the week and urged people not to travel unnecessarily.
He said: ‘The heat will affect rails, for example, so the trains have to run slower. There may be fewer services. People need to be on their guard for disruption.
‘If they don’t have to travel, this may be a moment to work from home.’
Research last week showed that people were attempting to make the most of the air-conditioning at work with offices running at 42 per cent capacity, the highest level since March 2020.
Some schools have started the summer holidays early as a result of the heat but contrary to the suggestion by teaching unions that some schools will need to shut, Government sources told The Mail on Sunday that the ‘consensus’ at yesterday’s Cobra meeting was that youngsters would be at risk if left unsupervised at home.
Meteorologists have warned there is a 50 per cent chance of temperatures reaching 40C or above on Tuesday, most likely along the A1 corridor, which runs from London to Scotland through counties including Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.
That would make the UK hotter than the 35C expected in Tamanrasset in the Sahara, and 37C in New Delhi, India. A steamy 30C – 15C above average – is due at 1am tomorrow night in London. The current record night-time temperature was 23.9C, set in August 1990 in Brighton.
Fire brigades have warned the public to be careful when throwing away disposable BBQs or charcoal and cigarettes, and not to burn garden waste.
Western Europe continues to see record temperatures with wildfires in western France and Spain.
France’s heatwave is expected to peak on Monday, with temperatures climbing above 40C (104F).
In Spain, health ministers say unusually high temperatures of 45C have resulted in 360 heat-related deaths.
What are the potential impacts of extreme heat?
The Met Office says that delays and cancellations to rail travel are possible with ‘potential for significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays’.
And Network Rail has warned people to travel only if absolutely necessary amid the high temperatures, with speed restrictions and disruption likely.
Jake Kelly, Network Rail’s System Operator group director, said: ‘Rail passengers in England and Wales should only travel if necessary on Monday and Tuesday as there will be delays and cancellations to train services due to the unprecedented heat we’re expecting.
‘The wellbeing of our passengers is our first priority so we’re asking all passengers who decide to travel to take time to prepare before leaving the house.’
Network Rail has warned that services across the UK may be subject to the speed restrictions to avoid tracks buckling, with Avanti West Coast, South Western Railway and Heathrow Express among the operators warning of potential disruption. West Midlands Trains and London Northwestern Railway have already imposed limits on sections of their network this week.
The Met Office says that delays on roads and road closures are possible during the heat alert period.
The RAC has urged motorists to ‘think carefully before they drive, and do everything they can to avoid a breakdown’. It says motorists should check the coolant and oil levels under the bonnet when the engine is cold.
It added: ‘If temperatures were to go as high as around 40C as some are predicting, then people should question their decision to drive in the first place.’
Hampshire County Council is preparing to deploy gritters in response to melting roads, saying that the machines will be spreading light dustings of sand which ‘acts like a sponge to soak up excess bitumen’.
Motorists who find tar stuck to their tyres are advised to wash it off with warm soapy water.
The Met Office has warned that air travel could also be disruption during the heat. This is because planes can become too heavy to take off in very hot weather due to reduced air density resulting in a lack of lift.
This happened during a heatwave in summer 2018 at London City Airport when some passengers had to be removed so the services become light enough to take off on the relatively short runway.
The Met Office has warned that a failure of ‘heat-sensitive systems and equipment’ is possible. This could result in a loss of power and other essential services, such as water, electricity and gas.
Hot weather can lead to high demand on the power network because people are turning on fans and air conditioning – and the heat can also lead to a drop in the efficiency of overhead power cables and transformers.
The Met Office says that ‘changes in working practices and daily routines will be required’ in the extreme heat.
There is no specific law for a maximum working temperature, or when it is too hot to work.
But employers are expected to ensure that in offices or similar environments, the temperature in workplaces must be ‘reasonable’. Companies must follow follow health and safety laws which include keeping the temperature at a comfortable level, known as ‘thermal comfort’; and providing clean and fresh air.
The Trades Union Congress says that during heatwaves staff should be allowed to start work earlier, or stay later, leave jackets and ties in the wardrobe and have regular breaks. It is also calling for an absolute maximum indoor temperature of 30C (86F) – or 27C (81F) for strenuous jobs – to legally indicate when work should stop.
The Met Office has said that adverse health effects could be ‘experienced by all, not just limited to those most vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to serious illness or danger to life’ during the warning period.
In addition, charity Asthma and Lung UK has warned up to three million asthma sufferers could be affected by high pollen levels, so should use their inhalers.
Plans to cope with the heat, created by the NHS and UKHSA, say children should not do ‘vigorous physical activity’ when temperatures rise above 30C (86F).
Some sports days have been cancelled this week, while official advice suggests moving school start, end and break times to avoid the hottest points in the day.
Put ice under your desk fan, turn off the oven… and keep your pillow cases cool in the freezer! Just three of our budget-boosting tips to breeze through the heatwave
By Sarah Davidson for the Mail on Sunday
The temperature is rising, but that doesn’t mean your bills have to. You don’t need expensive gadgets and energy-guzzling air-conditioning units to get through the heatwave. Here are our nine ways to stay cool – and save money.
1: Turn your desk fan into an air-con unit
Air-conditioning may be the best way to cool a room, but units are expensive to buy and run. You can pick up a decent desk fan for under £20 but the cheapest air-conditioners start at about £250. And a desk fan uses roughly one per cent of the electricity air-conditioning uses. However, there are things you can do to make your fan work a little more like an air-conditioner.
As the temperature drops towards the end of the day and the air becomes cooler outside than in, point your fan towards an open window. That’s a more efficient way of cooling your room.
Download the Refill app on your mobile phone before you head out. It will show you the nearest public water fountains and places you can refill your water bottle for free across the UK
You could also try putting a bowl of ice in front of your fan. Julian House, at the discount website myvouchercodes, explains: ‘The air passes over the bowl, circulating cooler air.’ He adds that using a metal bowl could help keep the ice frozen for longer.
2: Hang towels outside your window
Keeping curtains closed during the day blocks out some of the heat from entering your home. But even with the windows covered this way, roughly 90 per cent of the heat still gets through.
It can be even more effective to block the sun from the outside, which keeps it off your windows altogether.
Shutters are most effective, but for a cheap and easy makeshift alternative, you could hang light-coloured towels or sheets outside your south-facing windows.
3: Put your pillow cases in the freezer
Try putting pillow cases, pyjamas and even bed sheets into freezer bags and keeping them in the freezer to help cool you down right before bed. You could even fill a hot-water bottle and freeze it.
Keep your daily moisturisers and sunscreen in the fridge to cool you down when you apply them.
‘Why not put some aloe vera in the fridge as well and get double the cooling? It’s also great for dealing with sunburn,’ adds House.
Ankles, feet and wrists have pulse points, so keeping them cool is an effective way of keeping your body temperature down
4: Put your feet in cold water
Ankles, feet and wrists have pulse points, so keeping them cool is an effective way of keeping your body temperature down.
If you are tempted to stand under a cold shower, you may find that putting your feet in a bowl of cold water is sufficient to cool off – and helps to keep your water bills down if you have a meter.
5: Turn appliances off standby
A surprising amount of heat is generated from appliances on standby, such as televisions and PC monitors. Switching them off can help avoid adding heat to already sweltering rooms – and cut your energy bills.
Conventional incandescent light bulbs lose up to 90 per cent of their energy as waste heat. Switch to efficient LED models to cut bills and heat.
Keep the back of your fridge clean and at least 10cm from the wall. Fridges work less efficiently when their coils are covered in dirt and dust. They also have to work harder when they are wedged against a wall – give them space for air to circulate.
A surprising amount of heat is generated from appliances on standby, such as televisions and PC monitors. Switching them off can help avoid adding heat to already sweltering rooms – and cut your energy bills
6: Only use the car A/C on faster roads
The inside temperature of your car could reach an oven-like 60C in the next few days, according to the AA. So keeping cool on the go is essential. Using your car’s air-conditioning increases its fuel consumption by about ten per cent, says the AA. However, opening the windows is not necessarily a cost-free alternative. Open windows can create drag, which also increases fuel consumption. Deciding which option to go for is a fine balance.
As a rule of thumb, if you are driving slowly – less than about 45mph – open windows is cheaper. But, if you’re driving on the motorway, air-conditioning is more effective. Using air-conditioning is less efficient on short journeys than long as it has to work harder to cool the car in the first place, rather than just keep the car cool.
A spokesman for the AA adds: ‘If you return to a hot car, it’s best to open all the windows when you first drive off to clear the hot air before closing them and turning the air-con on. That way, the air-con won’t have to work so hard and you’ll cool the interior more quickly.’
7: Refill your water bottle for free
Download the Refill app on your mobile phone before you head out. It will show you the nearest public water fountains and places you can refill your water bottle for free across the UK.
Major high atreet brands such as Costa Coffee, Greggs and Morrisons have all signed up to offer free drinking water along with hundreds of National Trust and English Heritage properties. Go to refill.org.uk.
8: Fill up your fridge with water bottles
Fridges work most efficiently when they are reasonably full because refrigerated food helps to maintain the cool temperature.
You don’t need to buy extra groceries – just fill up spaces with bottles of water. That way you’re also stocked up with cold drinks to cool down throughout the day.
However, don’t fill your fridge so much that you can’t easily see what is in it. Otherwise you’ll lose cool air while you’re rooting through to find things. About 75 per cent full is ideal. Make sure the seals around your fridge and freezer doors are intact, too. In this heat, hot air will get in quickly and make the fridge work harder to stay cool.
The inside temperature of your car could reach an oven-like 60C in the next few days, according to the AA. So keeping cool on the go is essential
9: Ditch the oven
It sounds obvious, but do keep your oven off in this weather and use the microwave, barbecue or eat cold meals such as salads instead. Opting for a microwave or BBQ has the advantage of not heating up your home when you cook. And microwaves use far less energy to heat food than ovens, so you will be saving on household bills.
Salads have a high water content, which helps to keep you hydrated. Nutrition expert Penny Weston, who runs the Made Wellness Centre in Staffordshire, says: ‘As well as drinking plenty of water, make sure you eat foods such as cucumbers, which are 95 per cent water, tomatoes, watercress – where the clue is in the name – and apples, which are 85 per cent water.’
Dr Ross Perry, medical director of Cosmedics, adds: ‘Keep meals light as heavy meals will only keep you awake and stop you from getting a good night’s sleep when it’s hot.’