Climate scientists are increasingly concerned that extreme heatwaves in Europe are occurring more rapidly than models had suggested, indicating that the climate crisis on the European continent may be even worse than feared. Temperature records are usually broken by fractions of a degree, but the 40.2C recorded at Heathrow is 1.5C higher than the previous UK record of 38.7C recorded in 2019 in Cambridge. They say the latest record showed that slashing carbon emissions, and rapidly upgrading the UK’s overheating homes and buildings, was more urgent than ever.
The role of human-caused global heating appears clear, as the scientists estimated that chances of breaking 40C in the UK without it would be less than 0.1%. Dr Friederike Otto at Imperial College London said 40C “would have been extremely unlikely or virtually impossible without human-caused climate change”. Otto added: “While still rare, 40C is now a reality of British summers.”
“Climate change is driving this heatwave, just as it is driving every heatwave now,” she said. “Greenhouse gas emissions, from burning fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil, are making heatwaves hotter, longer-lasting and more frequent.”
Prof Hannah Cloke, at the University of Reading, said: “The all-time temperature record for the UK has not just been broken, it has been absolutely obliterated. Even as a climate scientist who studies this stuff, this is scary.”
“I wasn’t expecting to see this [40C] in my career,” said Prof Stephen Belcher, at the Met Office.