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The heat in London on Monday and Tuesday is rivaling parts of the Sahara

A woman shelters from the sun under a dark umbrella in London on Monday. Temperatures are forecast to hit well over 100 degrees in parts of the U.K. on Monday and Tuesday.
Carl Court
/
Getty Images
A woman shelters from the sun under a dark umbrella in London on Monday. Temperatures are forecast to hit well over 100 degrees in parts of the U.K. on Monday and Tuesday.

Updated July 18, 2022 at 4:04 PM ET

The U.K.'s first-ever red warning for extreme heat is in effect for the heart of England on Monday and Tuesday, with temperatures up to about 106 degrees predicted to roast an area from London all the way north to Manchester and York.

"I think it's the Devil's armpits outside already in Manchester at 32c [89.6 Fahrenheit]," a Twitter user wrote around 1 p.m. local time, in response to a post from the U.K.'s national weather service, the Met Office.

Other commenters posted images showing the inventive measures they've taken to survive the heat, including hanging white sheets outside their house to cover sunny windows. Another person covered south-facing windows with silvery foil blankets, hoping to create at least one cool room in their home.

Temperatures topped out at or near 100 degrees Fahrenheit in several areas on Monday, the Met Office said. It was so hot at London's Luton Airport that part of the surface began to lift away from the tarmac, forcing a temporary suspension of all flights.

The new weather alert system was put in place last year, in response to the rising dangers of extreme heat. The current red level constitutes a national emergency, with the worst heat expected on Tuesday.

The heat is poised to break weather records (again)

If forecasts bear out, the heat would obliterate current U.K. records: The hottest temperature ever recorded there came three summers ago, when a spot in Cambridge hit 38.7 degrees Celsius (101.66 Fahrenheit).

Here's how the BBC put it in context: "London is set to be one of the hottest places in the world on Monday, with temperatures soaring above the Western Sahara and the Caribbean."

Wales saw a new record high around 2 p.m. local time, when the mercury hit 35.3 Celsius (95.54 Fahrenheit), the Met Office said. Temperatures could also rise to new heights in Scotland.

A woman does a backflip into the River Cam in Cambridge, England, on Monday, the first of two days on which temperatures are expected to hit record highs.
Leon Neal / Getty Images
/
Getty Images
A woman does a backflip into the River Cam in Cambridge, England, on Monday, the first of two days on which temperatures are expected to hit record highs.

The heat is part of a wave of dry, hot and sunny weather in Europe that has resulted in deaths and fueled explosive wildfires in countries such as Portugal, Spain, Greece and France, particularly in areas that were already experiencing drought conditions.

"The extreme heat has been blamed for more than a thousand deaths in Spain and Portugal alone, with fears those numbers could climb as the heat wave makes its way across the continent," Rebecca Rosman reported for Morning Edition.

The red alert is a 'wake-up call,' a U.K. scientist says

Seven of the U.K.'s hottest days have come since 2000, part of an alarming climate trend that governments worldwide have been unable and/or unwilling to reverse. The new red-level warning is a "wake-up call about the climate emergency," according to University of Reading professor Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher.

The intensity of this heat wave makes it different from others, she said, noting the threat to life, property and even the broader economy.

"Even as a climate scientist who studies this stuff, this is scary," Cloke said, in a statement shared by her university. "This feels real. At the start of the week I was worried about my goldfish getting too hot. Now I'm worried about the survival of my family and my neighbors."

The heat is being driven by a funnel of "exceptionally hot air" that has been rising from the south, aided by a high-pressure system, the Met Office said.

The chances of seeing such high temperatures "could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence," the weather agency said.

While weather patterns produce natural temperature variations, the Met Office said that "the increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of these events over recent decades is clearly linked" to a warming trend "and can be attributed to human activity."

No relief is expected until at least Wednesday

People in a broad swath of Europe are at potential risk from the dry, hot weather. In the U.K., the heat's intensity could cause essential systems to fail, sparking localized power and water outages that would exacerbate the risk of heat-related ailments and even death, according to the Met Office.

The entire population should be mindful of the dangers, the agency said, warning that adverse effects aren't limited to people who are most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Little relief is expected to come overnight, which is expected to be "exceptionally warm for the U.K., especially in urban areas," the Met Office said, before the highs soar again on Tuesday. Cooler temperatures should finally arrive late Tuesday and into Wednesday, thanks to a wave of cooler air from the Atlantic.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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