/Met Office explains what extreme heat warnings are and what to expect

Met Office explains what extreme heat warnings are and what to expect

For the first time ever, the Met Office has issued an amber extreme heat warning that covers a large part of Wales.

The warning was issued on Monday after a weekend that saw the hottest day of the year across all four nations of the UK.

It covers a large part of Wales and is in place from now until the end of Thursday, July 22.

An amber warning is the second-highest level under the Met Office’s new extreme heat warning service launched in June.

Amber and red warnings can now be issued by the Met Office to inform the public of the possibility of widespread disruption and adverse health effects from extreme heat.

Read more:Restaurant shuts for three days as heatwave means it’s ‘not safe’ for staff to work

Met Office weather forecaster Aiden McGirven explains: “Many of us enjoy hot and sunny weather when it arrives in the UK, particularly with how mixed our summers can be.

“But for some people, extreme heat can cause health impacts and that is why the Met Office has issued the first ever extreme heat warning. During the period of the warning, temperatures in the areas affected will be well above average for the time of year.

“We are talking the high 20s, low 30s and as high as 33°C in some spots.

“It is about how high the night time temperatures will remain. In some places it will remain, 17, 18, sometimes 19°C. So, little relief at night to those vulnerable to prolonged heat and that heat continuing for several days. That is why the extreme heat warning has been issued.

“The prolonged nature of the event, the high daytime and high night time temperatures, and in conversation with public health partners around the UK, the Met Office has determined there is risk to public health for some of the most vulnerable.”

The heatwave is set to last most of this week
The heatwave is set to last most of this week
(Image: Adam Vaughan)

He said the risks include heat exhaustion, sun burn, and other heat impacts on health. In the most extreme circumstances, prolonged spells of heat can cause illness and even death.

According to Public Health England figures, 2,256 excess deaths were reported across the country during heatwaves in the summer of 2020 – the highest since records began. It’s hoped the new extreme heat warning can help the public, businesses and organisations better prepare for hot conditions, thereby reducing disruption and impacts.

Adding: “There are also hazards that can occur around extreme heat. More people swimming in open water, increased traffic around coastal areas, and an increased wildfire risk. As well as impacts on infrastructure, traffic and power supplies. That is why we have issued the extreme heat warning.”

Weather in your area by postcode:

What the Met Office say to expect

  • Adverse health effects are likely to be experienced by those vulnerable to extreme heat
  • The wider population are likely to experience some adverse health effects including sunburn or heat exhaustion (dehydration, nausea, fatigue) and other heat related illnesses
  • More people are likely to visit coastal areas, lakes and rivers leading to an increased risk of water safety incidents
  • Some changes in working practices and daily routines likely to be required
  • An increased chance that some heat-sensitive systems and equipment may fail, leading to power cuts and the loss of other services to some homes and businesses
  • Some delays to road, rail and air travel are possible, with potential for welfare issues for those who experience prolonged delays

Areas in Wales covered by the warning:

  • Blaenau Gwent
  • Bridgend
  • Caerphilly
  • Cardiff
  • Carmarthenshire
  • Ceredigion
  • Merthyr Tydfil
  • Monmouthshire
  • Neath Port Talbot
  • Newport
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Powys
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • Swansea
  • Torfaen
  • Vale of Glamorgan

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Why the Met Office launched new extreme heat warning system

When it was launched in June this year, the Met Office said: “Although hot weather can often be seen as ‘good news’ and is enjoyed by many, it can have serious consequences. Research shows that, as a result of climate change, we are now much more likely to see prolonged spells of hot weather here in the UK.

“The impacts of extreme heat can be many and varied.”

How will it work

Extreme heat warnings will work in a similar way to the existing weather warnings, where they’re only issued based on the impacts of the weather conditions, rather than when specific temperatures are reached.

This means that different conditions in different areas of the country may trigger an extreme heat warning, and the threshold for an extreme heat warning in Aberdeen, for example, is likely to be lower than one covering London.

A changing climate

The impacts from extreme heat are increasing across the UK due to climate change.

The UK State of Climate report shows that warm spells have more than doubled in length from 5.3 days in 1961 and 1990 to over 13 days in 2008 to 2017.

The latest Met Office projections of future UK climate change also suggest that these summer temperatures could be ‘normal’ by the 2050s.

Dr Will Lang, Head of Civil Contingencies at the Met Office, said: “We know that the impacts of climate change are resulting in an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme heat events.

“The extreme heat warning joins our other warnings to ensure that no matter what the weather conditions, we at the Met Office have a method of communicating these impacts to the public in as efficient a way as possible.

“Extreme heat has obvious potential consequences to health in the UK, especially for vulnerable groups, but continued impacts around transport infrastructure, energy consumption and coastal areas will also inform when extreme heat warnings are issued.”

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