UK records hottest day on record as temperatures soar over 40C

ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports on how the UK pressed on amid record-breaking temperatures

The UK has hit its hottest temperature on record, with 40.3C recorded at Coningsby in Lincolnshire, according to provisional Met Office data.

Coningsby reached 40.3C at approximately 4pm on Tuesday, beating the previous record of 38.7C seen at Cambridge Botanic Garden in 2019.

Heathrow and St James Park in London were close behind with temperatures of 40.2C.

The records come as much of England remains under its first ever red extreme heat warning.

Britain's "exceptional" heatwave has already broken several weather records, with all nations except for Northern Ireland reporting their hottest days ever and Monday night seeing the highest daily minimum temperature ever.

The mercury didn't fall below 25C in places - exceeding the previous highest daily minimum record of 23.9C recorded in Brighton on August 3, 1990.

And Tuesday night into Wednesday could also see temperatures stay above 20C, known as a “tropical night”, and while Wednesday will be significantly cooler, it will still be around 28-30C in some areas - hot for the time of year.

The rise in temperatures has also forced the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to issue a level 4 heat-health alert - described as an “emergency” and have urged the public to take extra precautions to stay hydrated and out of the sun during peak hours.

The public have also been urged against using disposable barbecues in nature spots, as wildfires raged in several locations across England with fire brigades reporting a high number of calls.

Firefighters have been battling a wildfire in Dartford, Kent. Credit: PA

Houses appeared to have set ablaze close to a huge grass fire in Dartford, Kent, a "horrendous" fire has also broken out on a nature reserve in Norfolk and dramatic footage captured flames ripping through homes on the outskirts of London.

In response to a huge surge of fires in the capital, London Fire Brigade declared a Major Incident. Mayor Sadiq Khan described the situation as "critical" with firefighters under "immense pressure".

Much of Europe is also baking in record-breaking heat, which is fuelling wildfires in a number of countries.

As Europe bakes in the scorching temperatures, Correspondent Ben Chapman reports from Gironde, south-west France where firefighters are tackling raging wildfires

Emergency services and the government have reiterated urgent warnings about the dangers of trying to keep cool in waterways and reservoirs after several tragedies across the country on both days of the heatwave.

On Tuesday, Wiltshire Police said a man in his 20s was confirmed dead shortly after being pulled from the water at the Cotswold Water Park on Monday evening.

In Clacton, Essex, one person is missing after a dramatic rescue which saw pier staff hanging onto ropes as they tried to keep struggling swimmers afloat. Five people were pulled from the water, while a rescue helicopter is searching for a man who is still missing.

Two boys, aged 12 and 14, are in hospital after being rescued from the sea in Blackpool by two "brave" teenage girls after they got into difficulty near Central Pier on Monday evening.

Many flocked to beaches to keep cool. Credit: PA

Monday's travel chaos due to the extreme heat continued into Tuesday, with passengers urged to only to travel if “absolutely necessary” amid a wave of cancellations and delays.

Dozens of rail operators have reduced services and have imposed speed restrictions to avoid any damage being made to the tracks and to prevent rails from buckling in the sweltering heat.

According to Network Rail, the hottest railway track reached 62C on Monday.

It tweeted: “Our hottest rail recorded yesterday was 62C, in Suffolk! Rail temperature can be about 20C higher than air temperature, causing it to expand, bend and break.”

Tracks were seen buckling in the heat, while images showed the A14 in Cambridgeshire folding under the pressure, and a road in Greater Manchester melted into sticky black goo.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps conceded the UK’s transport network cannot cope with this extreme heat, saying that the Victorian-era infrastructure “just wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature”.

He said it would take decades to replace existing rail tracks and even tarmac on roads to make it more resilient in such temperatures.

A closer look at global heat anomalies in 1976 and 2022. Credit: NASA/GMB

Scientists say climate change is making heatwaves more extreme, frequent and likely, and experts warn the UK needs to adapt homes, hospitals, schools and transport networks to a future of more searing heat.

Scientists say the likelihood of extreme heatwaves such as the one the UK is currently experience will increase over time due to rising global temperatures.

The Supreme Court in central London was closed to visitors on Tuesday because of the temperatures and an air-conditioning fault, while many schools remained shut for a second day in the face of the extreme temperatures.

Britons are being urged to stay inside during the hottest period of the day, between 11am and 4pm, and wear sun cream, a hat, stay in the shade and keep hydrated with water.

Claudia Di Napoli, a heatwaves researcher at the University of Reading, said heat poses multiple dangers, including dehydration, overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

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“These must not be under-estimated as their consequences can be fatal,” she warned.

She said infants, the elderly, homeless, outdoor workers and those with pre-existing medical conditions are more vulnerable, but heat early warning systems could help prevent deaths.

The Met Office has also issued a yellow warning for heavy showers and thunderstorms over much of the South East and eastern England which may bring disruption during Wednesday afternoon, as temperatures drop for their current searing highs.