The UK and central Europe experienced a number of intense heatwaves this summer, with all-time records being broken in many places.
Across Europe the heat began to build at the start of summer, and by the last week of June local temperature records were being broken. France recorded an all-time record high temperature of 46 °C on 28th June during a 9 day heatwave.
Temperatures reached 47.3°C in Penrith, Sydney on Sunday 7th January – the hottest temperature in the region in 79 years, when the mercury previously reached 47.8°C.
Severe fire warnings were issued for the greater Sydney area and thousands of properties across New South Wales were left without electricity, partly because of the heat. England's batsmen also struggled on the hottest day on what was also record heat for a Test match in Australia.
In Arizona, USA, an ongoing heat wave has seen some of the highest temperatures ever recorded. Temperatures in Death Valley reached 54°C and flights to Phoenix were cancelled when airport temperatures reached 48°C. The heat wave has led to wild fires.
High temperatures across southern Europe have also caused problems – Portugal and Spain in particular have been tackling forest fires to which they were vulnerable after a dry winter and spring.
Many parts of England and Wales will see BBQ weather this weekend, as temperatures soar into the mid-to-high 20s and even low 30s in some central and southeastern parts. The warm, humid air from the tropical Atlantic will bring glorious weather over the weekend and possibly into next week.
Heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. Some cultures have adapted to avoid heat stress – the Mediterranean siesta signals a work break during the hottest part of the day, or in the tropics where work begins earlier, ends later and is carried out at a slower pace. Heat stress is not something we experience very often in the UK, especially after recent summers, but if we do experience a heatwave – a prolonged spell when daytime and overnight temperatures are elevated and humidity is high - we need to be prepared.