CLIMATE CHALLENGESEurope Heat Wave: U.K. Records Hottest-Ever Temperature

Published 19 July 2022

Western Europe continues to bake in extreme heat, with the UK recording a temperature over 40 degrees Celsius for the first time, and wildfires burning through French forests. Relief is expected later in the week.

The United Kingdom on Tuesday provisionally recorded its hottest-ever temperature reading, with the mercury rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time. A temperature of 40.2 C was recorded at London Heathrow in the early afternoon, according to the Met Office weather service. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that the high temperatures have caused a “huge surge” in fires across the city and that the London fire brigade is under “immense pressure.” 

One incident involves 100 firefighters responding to a grass fire in Wennington on the eastern edge of London.

The record-breaking day follows the UK’s warmest-ever night, with temperatures in some regions remaining above 25 degrees Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) from Monday to Tuesday, according to the Met Office.

The 40 C mark was announced shortly after the day’s first record-breaking reading of 39.1 C was provisionally recorded at Charlwood in the southern Surrey region. 

The UK’s previous all-time record high of 38.7 C (101.7 F) was set in 2019. 

Tuesday’s record could be broken again as the day goes on, with temperatures expected to continue rising in the afternoon. 

Forty-one isn’t off the cards,” said Met Office CEO Penelope Endersby. “We’ve even got some 43s in the model, but we’re hoping it won’t be as high as that.”

The Met Office will need to validate the equipment used to measure the temperature before it officially becomes a recorded high. 

On Monday, British officials issued the UK’s first-ever extreme heat emergency, extending from London in the south to Manchester and Leeds in the north. Train services were disrupted by buckled rails, and more travel disruption is expected on Tuesday.

We’re probably going to see the hottest day ever in the UK recorded today,” Transport Minister Grant Shapps told the BBC. “Infrastructure, much of which was built from the Victorian times, just wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature.”

The mercury reached 38.1 C on Monday in Suffolk, in eastern England, which was hottest temperature recorded in the UK this year, and the third-hottest day on record.

Average July temperatures in the UK range from a highs of 21 C to nighttime lows of 12 C, and few homes or small businesses have air conditioning.

Wildfires in France 
On the other side of English Channel, French weather officials reported record high temperatures in 64 different areas in France on Monday. Most of the highs were recorded near the western Atlantic coast.