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Why 100 degree heat is so dangerous in the UK: NPR

Residents of London are enjoying some shade on Tuesday as Britain recorded its warmest temperature ever.

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Residents of London are enjoying some shade on Tuesday as Britain recorded its warmest temperature ever.

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

This week it was hotter than ever in the UK.

On Tuesday, parts of England hit a temperature above 40 degrees Celsius – or 104 degrees Fahrenheit – a first in the recorded history of Britain.

The government had urged the British to Stay home if it is possible. Train stations were closed or empty; an airport closed a runway and police closed a highway as asphalt melted and bent. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the city’s fire brigade received 1,600 calls for assistance and that firefighters fought at least a dozen major fires across the city. Residents of Blidworth, a village near Nottingham, was evacuated when 15 firefighters battled a huge fire on a nearby farm.

“I did not expect to see this in my career,” said Stephen Belcher, chief scientist at the British Meteorological Office.

With a large part of the United States facing its own heat wavecould it be easy for Americans to wonder why the extreme heat has been so disturbing in Britain

In short: Because it is not a common occurrence there, the country and its inhabitants are less equipped to deal with heat, say officials and experts – although climate change means extreme days are more likely in the coming years.

Why is the UK more vulnerable to heat than the US?

In parts of the United States, temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit are relatively common. In the south and southwest, it is normal to record three-digit temperatures a dozen or more times a year.

In contrast, temperatures as warm as those recorded on Tuesday are typically expected in the UK once every 100 to 300 years, according to the Met Office.

Because of this, the infrastructure in the UK – from residential to commercial buildings to roads to train tracks to airport asphalt – is not always built to withstand the high temperatures.

“It can be difficult for people to make the best decisions in these situations because nothing in their life experience has made them know what to expect,” said Penny Endersby, Met Office CEO. said prior to the heat wave.

“Here in the UK we are used to treating hot periods as a chance to play in the sun. It’s not that kind of weather. Our lifestyle and our infrastructure are not adapted to what is to come,” she added.

For example, most homes in the UK do not have air conditioning. That is the assessment of the British Government only about 5% of homes have some form of AC – and most of them have portable devices designed to cool a single room. Meanwhile, nearly 90% of Americans have air conditioning in their homes.

How did it go this week?

It’s too early to know how deadly this week’s heatwave has been. Experts had also warned that many people, potentially thousands, could die from the extreme temperatures. (After a trio of heat waves shook Britain in the summer of 2020, a government report completed that the country saw 2,500 more deaths than expected during the heat, even after taking COVID-19 into account.)

More immediately apparent was the effect on the infrastructure. Roads, asphalt and rail systems are more vulnerable in the UK than they are in the US

Britain’s national rail service warned of slower trains and closed some routes in anticipation of the heat, and a London airport closed a runway for several hours on Monday after the heat caused the pavement to bend.

In the east of England, authorities shut down a motorway for hours as the heat caused the concrete beneath the surface asphalt to wave upwards. “While this ramp may seem appealing to the more adventurous of you, it has proven to be dangerous,” writes the local police on Twitter.

Like many older roads in England, that stretch of the A14 was once paved with concrete, said National Highways, the state-owned company that operates the country’s motorways. It had since been paved, but the underlying concrete could not withstand this week’s heat.

“In the extreme heat, a cumulative effect has meant that the temperature of the concrete under the asphalt has risen over the last few days, which means that sections have expanded and overwhelmed the tolerances (holes) we allow for normal expansion.” they wrote.

Firefighters in Wennington, a parish near London. The mayor of London said emergency services had battled a dozen major fires on Tuesday.

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Firefighters in Wennington, a parish near London. The mayor of London said emergency services had battled a dozen major fires on Tuesday.

Carl Court / Getty Images

Will this happen more often?

Heat waves – their frequency, duration and severity – are a major consequence of climate change, said Larry Kenney, a professor of physiology at Penn State. Particularly vulnerable are the elderly, people with heart disease, infants and people who are physically active in the heat, such as athletes and military personnel.

“People need to understand that heat is the most deadly of all weather-related deaths, much more than tornadoes, hurricanes, all other things combined,” Kenney told NPR.

All this means that this week’s temperatures in the UK are unlikely to be a one-off. When the planet warms, the chances of such extreme temperatures can be 10 times as likely, or more, says Met Office.

“Research conducted here at the Met Office has shown that it is virtually impossible for the UK to experience 40 degrees C in an undisturbed climate,” said Belcher, the agency’s chief scientist.

“If we continue under a high-emission scenario, we could see temperatures like this every three years,” he said.

NPR’s Lauren Sommer contributed reporting.



Why 100 degree heat is so dangerous in the UK: NPR

Source link Why 100 degree heat is so dangerous in the UK: NPR

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