In July of 2022, the UK experienced one of its worst ever heatwaves. The Met Office issued its first red warning for extreme heat, and the country’s highest ever temperature was recorded (40.3 °C) on 19 July – breaking a record that had been set just a few summers before.

Infrastructure struggled to cope. Trains were cancelled due to buckling rail tracks, and airport runways and asphalt roads started to melt. Network rain issued a ‘do not travel’ warning.

And there were more tragic impacts of this heatwave too. 638 more deaths than normal were recorded on the hottest day of the year1 and doctors warned of an increased risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke – especially for those most vulnerable. A level 4 heat alert was issued by the government, meaning “Illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups”.

Wildfires were recorded across the country, even close to cities. 100 firefighters were called in to tackle a fire in East Londonwhere dozens of houses burned down and families were forced to evacuate their homes.

The heatwave was 10 times more likely to happen due to the climate crisis – and some scientists warn that even those estimates are conservative3. Professor Fredi Otto of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London said:

“We have a problem with the climate models that we are using to simulate the anthropogenic signal…They underestimate the trend in extreme temperatures in summers in western Europe.”

Impacts are further worsened by the UK’s limited experience of extreme temperatures such as these. Housing and infrastructure is not prepared for it the way that they may be in hotter countries.

The chief executive of the Met Office, Professor Penny Endersby, called the heatwave “absolutely unprecedented”.



1: The Guardian

2: ITV

3: Carbon Brief


For more climate movement news, follow 350 on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram