Is a heatwave on the way? Why the weather is heating up this week

People sit under umbrallas as they enjoy the hot weather at Bournemouth Beach in Dorset.
People sit under umbrallas as they enjoy the hot weather at Bournemouth Beach in Dorset. Credit: PA

Temperatures are currently building day-on-day, and it's now looking likely that some areas will meet their heatwave thresholds.

Temperatures will comfortably sit in the mid-to-high twenties in the coming days, but the southeast is likely to see a substantial jump on Friday afternoon with the latest model runs now predicting a blistering 34C. The heat is building for two reasons.

High pressure is continuing to build across most of Britain, which is leading to a stable pattern of settled weather and homegrown heat (with the exception of the northwest, which will continue to see more changeable conditions). Secondly, parts of Europe are experiencing their second heatwave of the year with temperatures in the hottest areas exceeding 42C.

Seville hit 40C last weekend and it's this scorching heat that will fry parts of France and be fed northwards towards Britain.

The likelihood of this happening again, and in essence more frequently, is increasing due to climate change.

People by the beach at Saltburn-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire last summer. Credit: PA

While we can't attribute a single event to the climate crisis, looking at a series of events can give us a clearer answer. We've had our ten warmest years on record all happen in the past 20 years, and in July 2019 we recorded the UK's hottest daily temperature on record - 38.7C in Cambridge.

Vautard et al did an attribution study on the 2019 European heatwave in which they asked if climate change influenced the intensity and likelihood of the high temperatures we saw. The results from the study showed that the July heatwave was about ten times more likely because of climate change. The temperatures we saw were 1.5–3C hotter than they would have been without human influence.

At a first read that might not seem like much in an isolated event, but if this happens continuously or frequently, that's a huge effect on the environment and the world as we know it.

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