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Hot weather and its impact in the UK

Summer can be a wonderful season, with lots of time spent outside enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. Whilst many of us like to enjoy the sunshine and hot weather, we should make sure we do it safely and remember certain groups of people are more vulnerable than others to heat or ultraviolet radiation

What is the weather like in summer?

On average in the UK, July is the warmest month and June the sunniest while the rainfall totals throughout the UK in summer can be rather variable. The highest temperatures tend to be seen around London and the south-east with the coolest temperatures experienced throughout Scotland and northern England.

Highest daily maximum temperature records

Country Temperature ( °C) Date Location
England 38.5 10-Aug-03 Faversham (Kent)
Wales 35.2 02-Aug-90 Hawarden Bridge (Flintshire)
Scotland 32.9 09-Aug-03 Greycrook (Scottish Borders)
Northern Ireland 30.8 30-Jun-76 Knockarevan (County Fermanagh)
12-Jul-83 Shaw's Bridge, Belfast (County Antrim)

The UK in summer can experience blocking anticyclones which can bring long spells of warm weather and create heatwave conditions.

Heatwave

The UK experiences occasional heatwaves but of a lesser frequency and intensity to those seen elsewhere globally.

In August 2003, the UK experienced heatwave conditions lasting 10 days resulting in 2,000 deaths. During this heatwave, a record maximum temperature of 38.5 °C was recorded at Faversham in Kent. In July 2006, similar conditions occurred breaking many station records and resulting in the warmest month on record in the UK.

Impacts of Hot weather

Whilst many of us like to enjoy the sunshine and hot weather, we should make sure we do it safely and remember certain groups of people are more vulnerable than others to heat or ultraviolet radiation.

Extreme heat can force the body into overdrive as it tries to stay cool through perspiration and evaporation. Young children and older people are particularly at risk. Overexposure to sun is equally dangerous, with effects ranging from mild sunburn to skin cancer. It doesn’t have to be hot for the UV index to be high.

The hot weather not only affects us but can also place strains on water and energy utilities, road and rail transport and the health and fire services.

In 2006 heat damage to road surfaces was reported from Cornwall to Cumbria, with the cost of repairs estimated at £3.6m in Oxfordshire alone. Speed restrictions were introduced on many rail lines, because of the risk of buckling with the west coast main line particularly affected with delays and cancellations.

In 1990 the fire services were kept busy tackling heath and farmland fires that broke out due to the dry conditions that had prevailed since March that year.

In 1976, one of the most prolonged heatwaves in living memory, the hot, dry weather affected domestic water supplies leading to widespread water rationing.

Make sure you know what to do

During hot sunny weather:

  • Try to keep your house cool, closing blinds or curtains can help.
  • At night, keep your sleeping area well ventilated. Night cooling is important as it allows the body to recuperate.
  • Try to stay cool by taking cool showers or baths and/or sprinkle yourself several times a day with cold water.
  • Avoid too much exercise, which can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and watch for signs of heat stress - an early sign is fatigue.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, but not alcohol, which dehydrates the body.
  • Try to eat as you normally would. Not eating properly may exacerbate health-related problems.
  • If driving, keep your vehicle well ventilated to avoid drowsiness. Take plenty of water with you and have regular rest breaks.
  • If you have vulnerable neighbours who may be at risk during a heatwave, try to visit them daily.
  • If you do go out, try to avoid the hottest part of the day (11 am to 3 pm) and seek shade where possible. Avoid being in the sun for long stretches. Wear lightweight, light-coloured clothing, high factor sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • The UV index (the strength of the sun) can be high at many times of the year - it doesn't have to be hot. The UV index can be strong through cloud even when the sun isn't directly shining.
  • Reapply an appropriate factor sun cream at regular intervals during the day

Do not leave children or animals in parked cars. Even on cool days, strong sunshine can make car interiors very hot.