How does the current heatwave compare to the scorching summer of 1976?

A model (left) sunbathes in the dried-up basin of Pitsford Reservoir, Northamptonshire in 1976 and in 2022, women (right) in Brighton enjoy the heatwave. Credit: PA

The Met Office has issued an amber weather warning for extreme heat across parts of the UK ahead of soaring temperatures over the coming week.

On Monday, the temperature peaked at 32°C in west London and there is a 30% chance that Sunday will be the hottest day ever recorded in the UK.

But how does the current hot weather compare to the summer of 1976? The heatwave was one of the longest in living memory and triggered the most significant drought for at least the last 150 years.

Lord Nugent, chairman of the National Water Council, pictured in the summer of 1976.
Park-keepers at London's Victoria Embankment Gardens work in the blazing heat.

The highest temperature recorded in June 1976 was 35.6°C, in Southampton on the 28th.

Water is pumped from the streets of Abertilly, Wales while residents gather water in buckets

The Met Office predicts that this coming Sunday and Monday, temperatures could reach over 35°C in the southeast.

In 1976, there were 15 consecutive days when temperatures reached 32°C or higher.

Wimbledon spectators on Centre Court cover up for protection against the scorching sun.
Drought-hit farmland at Broad Oak in Kent during August 1976. Credit: PA

The next week is expected to be more variable. Although Monday peaked at 32°C and Sunday and next Monday could exceed 35C, temperatures aren't likely to rise above the high 20s on Wednesday and Thursday.

An ITN report from 1976 on a dried up Welsh reservoir

1976 was marked by standpipes in the streets, water rationing and the appointment of a minster for drought.

Denis Howell was appointed Drought Minister to help manage the water crisis. Credit: PA

No such measures have been announced for the coming week, although water companies have urged people not to waste water during the heatwave.