British authorities issued their first ever “red” warning for extreme heat early next week, declaring a national emergency as forecasters predict record temperatures that will put even healthy people at risk of serious illness and death.
The warning covers Monday and Tuesday when temperatures in England may reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time, the agency said.
The highest temperature ever recorded in the U.K. is 38.7C (101.7F), set in 2019. The UK Health Security Agency increased its own alert to the highest level, warning of a “national emergency.”
The red warning includes the London metro area.
“Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm, especially in urban areas," said Met Office Chief Meteorologist Paul Gundersen. "This is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure. Therefore, it is important people plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.”
Officials believe climate change could be playing a role in the heat.
“Climate change has already influenced the likelihood of temperature extremes in the UK," said Dr. Nikos Christidis, climate attribution scientist at the Met Office. "The chances of seeing 40°C days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence. The likelihood of exceeding 40°C anywhere in the UK in a given year has also been rapidly increasing, and, even with current pledges on emissions reductions, such extremes could be taking place every 15 years in the climate of 2100.”