23/07/2019 08:10 BST | Updated 23/07/2019 08:14 BST

UK Weather: 5 Things You Need To Know About The Scorching Heatwave

Record-breaking temperatures are due to be unleashed across the country, with Thursday set to be the hottest of the year so far.

Today will see a phenomenon hit the UK that could cause uncontrolled sweating, dizziness and an uncontrollable urge to sit under a cold shower rocking back and forth – no, it’s not the results of the Tory leadership contest, it’s a heatwave.

Just in time for the expected announcement that Boris Johnson will become our new prime minister, the UK is set to bask in potentially record-breaking temperatures.

The mercury is expected to hit 34C (95F) in London on Wednesday and could reach even higher on Thursday.

What is a heatwave?

Although the term is bandied around all over the place, a heatwave does have to meet certain criteria to be official.

Here in the UK, a heatwave is defined as at least three consecutive days of temperatures of 25C or higher in a majority of the country.

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How hot is it going to be where I live?

While the hottest temperatures will be in the south-east, even the normally-cool highlands of Scotland could see temperatures of 27C on Thursday.

Here’s a handy gif from the Met Office.

What’s the previous record?

Marco Petagna, Met Office forecaster said: “On Thursday we’ll see an east and west split with showers in the western parts of England but the eastern parts will look very hot with 36 to 37C (96.8F).”

He also said there is a “60% chance” Thursday’s weather might surpass the current July record of 36.7C (98.06F) set at Heathrow in 2015 and a “30% chance” of going over the all time UK temperature record of 38.5C (101.3F) which was recorded in Faversham in August 2003.

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Do I still have to go to work?

Yes, sorry.

The UK does not have a law dictating the temperature of your workplace, as this would prove impractical in industries such as steel for example, where workers are in close proximity to furnaces.

The only rule is that employers should provide a “reasonable” temperature.

But maybe you can get away with wearing flip-flops.

Are there any benefits to the heatwave?

Yes, although it’s a little niche. 

Seeds of a wildflower so rare it is only found in a handful of sites are being “baked” in the sun after last year’s heatwave boosted its survival.

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The pheasant's-eye

Experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have found the key to helping bring once-common pheasant’s-eye back from the brink of extinction is to expose seeds to the summer sun to encourage them to germinate.

The finding is backed up by the appearance of the flower this summer in new sites and places it has not been seen for decades as a result of the “perfect bake” they received in last year’s hot weather, wildlife charity Plantlife said.

And finally, a bonus. How does a squirrel monkey cool down in a heatwave?

Glad you asked. During last year’s heatwave, London Zoo’s animals cooled off with icy treats made of frozen fruit tea and nuts.

The troop of Bolivian black-capped squirrel monkeys enjoyed mini frozen fruit-tea lollies hung up high in the foliage of their enclosure.

It’s currently unknown if the zoo plans the same again this year but if they do we’ll be sure to let you know.


In all seriousness though, be careful out there. 

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “Like lots of people I’m looking forward to having fun in the sun with family and friends this weekend, but nobody wants to spend a pleasant day stuck in a hospital or urgent treatment centre.

“It’s really important to take simple precautions like drinking plenty of water, using high-factor sunscreen and remembering to take allergy medication if you need it – as is making sure to check in on neighbours and loved ones who can suffer the most from heat and pollen.”

People with minor illnesses are urged to check the NHS website or call 111 for help.

Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK and a practising GP, said: “A toxic cocktail of hot humid weather and rising pollen levels this week could be extremely hazardous for the 5.4 million people in the UK with asthma, triggering deadly asthma attacks.

“Hot air and hay fever can cause people’s airways to narrow, leaving them struggling to breathe, with symptoms like coughing, wheezing, a tight chest and breathlessness.

“Hot weather can also increase the amount of pollutants, pollen and mould in the air which can trigger asthma symptoms.”

The Met Office has warned that the sweltering spell could bring some disruption from heavy thundery downpours, the Press Association reports.