UK experiences hottest day on record, 100 million Americans on global heat emergency alert
Americans are used to turning on their air conditioners at all times in temperatures approaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius). But in the UK, this week’s record heat has brought a pandemic shutdown to life.
Temperatures in the UK topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for the first time on Tuesday, making it the hottest day on record in the country.
In the United States, a third of the population was subject to heat-related weather warnings on Tuesday and Wednesday, with temperatures expected to climb north of 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) in the Plains states.
When it comes to the cause of these extreme heats in the United States and Europe, different systems are at play.
In Europe, a strong anticyclonic ridge has allowed temperatures to rise on the continent in recent days. On Tuesday an area of low pressure was moving off the coast, acting to help funnel extreme heat north towards the UK.
In the United States, a strong high pressure dome has settled over the southern plains and the Mississippi Valley. Instead of the heat being channeled from the south, it builds relentlessly as the sun bakes through a cloudless sky.
The connecting fabric between these heat waves is the influence of greenhouse gas emissions and the reference temperature of the planet, which continues to warm.
« But climate change caused by greenhouse gases has made these temperatures possible, and we actually see that possibility now, » he said, adding that if the world continues to emit greenhouse gases greenhouse at the current level, such heat waves are likely to occur there every three years.
In other words, don’t leave your house.
But in the UK, which is more likely to struggle with the cold than the hot, homes are also designed to retain heat. Desk fans sell nationwide, but they only go so far.
« The all-time temperature record for the UK has not just been broken, it has been absolutely erased, » said Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading. « The 39 degree Celsius mark will never even exist as a UK temperature record because we just broke it into the 40s in one sweaty jump. »
The UK is unfortunately unprepared for the effects of the climate crisis. It struggles to deal with floods when they occur. Under the heat, the nation bends.
In southern Europe, a region more used to extreme heat, at least 1,100 people died in the latest heat wave, and French firefighters are overwhelmed by the blazes tearing through forests. Twenty-one European countries are subject to heat warnings.
Americans may be more used to the heat, but heat waves are also getting longer and more frequent there, which means more time indoors or wherever there is air conditioning. As many as 100 million Americans, nearly a third of the nation, were on heat alert on Tuesday.
The alerts range from the southern plains to the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys, and there are scattered alerts in the southwest. The Northeast has already issued heat advisories for heat « like » 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 Celsius) for Wednesday.
The most dangerous heat is forecast for parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas where excessive heat warnings are in place for Dallas, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Little Rock. Temperatures are expected to climb to 100 to 110 degrees Farhenheit (up to 43 degrees Celsius) over the next few days.
Scientists working on the role the climate crisis plays in extreme weather now say nearly all heatwaves around the world are influenced by humans burning fossil fuels.
Friederike Otto, of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, said it was up to the world to reach net zero – where humans emit as few greenhouse gases as possible and « offset » the rest – to prevent heat waves from becoming even worse, « deadly and disruptive ».
« We have the agency to make ourselves less vulnerable and redesign our cities, homes, schools and hospitals and educate ourselves on how to stay safe, » Otto told CNN. « 40 degrees Celsius in the UK is not an act of God, but to a large extent due to our past and present consumption of fossil fuels. »
He warned of scorching heat waves this week, despite seasonal rains, with temperatures reaching 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit) in the south from Wednesday.
In central London on Tuesday, a student named Asser who braved the heat told CNN the world was not doing enough to combat heat waves.
« In fact, the world is doing nothing. The world is burning and we are doing nothing. We are just consuming, industry is spinning and nobody is doing anything for the climate, » he said.
« You have heat waves in Europe, London and the United States, everywhere – you can see it, it’s obvious. You have floods, wildfires and everything. »
CNN’s Sana Noor Haq, Angela Fritz, Brandon Miller and Nada Bashir contributed to this report.