Britain experienced its second hottest day on record on Thursday, as temperatures hit 38.1C (100.5F) in Cambridge.
Weather forecasters earlier said there was a 70% chance that the previous record of 38.5C (101.3F) from August 2003 would be broken.
The record for the hottest ever July day was broken by 1.30pm BST, with 36.9C (98.4F) at Heathrow, west London, beating the previous July record in 2015.
Half of the previous ten hottest-ever days on record have happened in the last 16 years, the Met Office said.
Craig Snell, a forecaster at the Met Office, said the country was “perilously close to breaking the [all-time] record but falling short” at 4.30pm BST.
Thermometers rocketed this week as a heatwave gripped the UK. Temperatures reached 32C (89.6F) at Northolt, west London, on Wednesday.
Records were also broken elsewhere in Europe on Thursday as Paris saw temperatures of above 41C (105.8F) by early afternoon, with Brussels experiencing 38C (100.4F).
Geilenkirchen in Germany saw 40.5C (104.9F) and Eindhoven, in the Netherlands coped with 39.3C (102.7F).
Record temperatures around the UK
Scotland: 32.9C (91.2F) in Greycrook, Borders on 9 August 2003
Wales: 35.2C (95.4F) in Harwarden Bridge, Flintshire on 2 August 1990
Northern Ireland: 30.8C (87.4F) in Knockarevan, County Fermanagh on 20 June 1976 and Shaw’s Bridge, Belfast on 12 July 1983Advertisement
Source: The Met Office
Public Health England (PHE) said that people should be aware of health risks posed by extreme temperatures.
PHE said a heatwave could affect vulnerable people, especially those over 75, babies and young children, and those with long-term health conditions.
“Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water,” the agency advised. “Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol. Water, lower fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.”
Councils across the UK have also activated their severe weather protocols to help rough sleepers.
Leeds and Manchester city councils, Westminster, Lambeth, Camden, and Islington councils said they were working to ensure those who were homeless had access to shelter and water.
Social workers, community wardens and maintenance staff are all on high alert to help those who might be struggling, the Local Government Association said.
Meanwhile, climate change campaigners Greenpeace said a rise in the number of heatwaves were “a sign that our climate is breaking down”.
“Rising seas and more frequent extreme weather events are putting tens of millions of lives around the world at risk,” it said.
And Friends of the Earth’s Craig Bennett said: “The dangerous heatwave battering Britain is a stark warning to Boris Johnson on the urgent need to end the country’s reliance on climate-wrecking fossil fuels.”
In pictures – Brits bask in record-breaking temps
Britons enjoy the extreme heat across the country on Thursday, 25 July 2019.