Britain shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered Tuesday, with a provisional reading of 39.1 degrees Celsius (102.4 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the country's weather office — and the heat was only expected to rise.
Britain shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered Tuesday amid a heat wave that has seared swaths of Europe — and the national weather forecaster predicted it would get hotter still in a country ill prepared for such extremes, AP reports.
The typically temperate nation was just the latest to be walloped by unusually hot, dry weather that has triggered wildfires from Portugal to the Balkans and led to hundreds of heat-related deaths. Images of flames racing toward a French beach and Britons sweltering — even at the seaside — have driven home concerns about climate change.
The U.K. Met Office registered a provisional reading of 40.2 degrees Celsius (104.4 degrees Fahrenheit) at Heathrow Airport in early afternoon — breaking the record set just an hour earlier and with hours of intense sunshine still to go. Before Tuesday, the highest temperature recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), set in 2019.
As the nation watched the mercury rise with a combination of horror and fascination, the forecaster warned temperatures could go higher still.
The sweltering weather has disrupted travel, health care and schools in a country not prepared for such extremes. Many homes, small businesses and even public buildings, including hospitals, don’t even have air conditioning, a reflection of how unusual such heat is in the country better known for rain and mild temperatures.
Electric fans cooled the traditional mounted troops of the Household Cavalry as they stood guard in central London in heavy ceremonial uniforms. Other guards reduced their duties. The capital’s Hyde Park, normally busy with walkers, was eerily quiet — except for the long lines to take a dip in the Serpentine lake.
“I’m going to my office because it is nice and cool,” said geologist Tom Elliott, 31, after taking a swim. “I’m cycling around instead of taking the Tube.’’
Queen Elizabeth II carried on working. The 96-year-old monarch held a virtual audience with new U.S. ambassador Jane Hartley from the safety of inside Windsor Castle.
A huge chunk of England, from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north, remained under the country’s first “red” warning for extreme heat Tuesday, meaning there is danger of death even for healthy people.
Such dangers could be seen in Britain and around Europe. At least six people were reported to have drowned across the U.K. in rivers, lakes and reservoirs while trying to cool off. Meanwhile, nearly 750 heat-related deaths have been reported in Spain and neighboring Portugal in the heat wave there.
The highest temperature previously recorded in Britain was 38.7 C (101.7 F), a record set in 2019. Tuesday’s reading was provisional, which means they are produced as near to real time as possible with final readings issued after data quality-control, the Met Office said.
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