A heat health-alert will come into force in England later on Tuesday, as more parts of the UK face hosepipe bans amid extremely dry conditions which have triggered fire warnings.
The UK Health Security Agency’s amber alert covers southern and central England from midday on Tuesday until 6pm on Saturday.
The amber heat alert “requires social and healthcare services to target specific actions at high-risk groups”, but is one stage lower than the most serious level four red warning issued in last month’s heatwave.
Experts have urged people to look out for those who are older or with existing health conditions, as well as young children.
The Met Office said temperatures over coming days will not be as extreme as the record-breaking heat in July when the thermometer climbed above 40C.
However, it is still likely to rise into the low to mid-30s in central and southern parts of the UK. Outside the hottest areas, much of England and Wales and south-east Scotland could see temperatures in the high 20s, with a chance of a few spots seeing temperatures into the low 30s, the Met Office said. Scotland and Northern Ireland will also see temperatures in the high 20s and could reach official heatwave criteria by Friday, the forecasters said. With the latest heatwave coming after months of low rain, which have left the countryside and urban parks and gardens tinder-dry, households in some areas are being urged not to light fires or have barbecues.
According to the Met Office, July 2022 was the driest July for England since 1935, with England getting just 35% of its average rainfall for the month, and Wales 53%.
The Met Office’s fire severity index, an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, is very high for most of England and Wales, and will reach “exceptional” for a swathe of England by the weekend. Scientists warn that the likelihood of droughts occurring is becoming higher due to climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities. Climate change is also making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely – with last month’s record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming, and “virtually impossible” without it, research shows.
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The dry conditions have prompted water companies across the UK to issue warnings to consumers amid fears the country is heading for a drought. The National Drought Group has moved England into “Prolonged Dry Weather” status, which is the final stage before an official drought, at an emergency meeting last month.
Southern Water already has a hosepipe ban in place for customers in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. From Friday, South East Water will bring in the same in Kent and Sussex, with Welsh Water doing the same for Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire later this month.
But there are mounting calls for more hosepipe bans to be brought in. Thames Water, South West Water, Yorkshire Water are among the companies which have said they may impose bans if the weathers remain unseasonably dry.