LONDON (Reuters) - Temperatures in Britain are set to reach their highest-ever levels on Thursday as northern Europe baked in a heatwave for the second time in a month.
The Met Office, Britain’s national weather forecaster, said there was a 40% chance that the record of 38.5 degrees Celsius (101.3°F), set in Kent in 2003, will be broken.
By early afternoon the UK record for the month of July, 36.7 C, had been broken when the mercury hit 36.9 C at London’s Heathrow airport, it said.
Britons were facing travel disruption, with trains being forced to slow down to prevent tracks buckling in the heat, and health authorities have issued warnings to the vulnerable.
High pressure drawing scorching air from the Sahara desert has already broken temperature records for Belgium and the Netherlands and is expected to persist until Friday.
Climate specialists warned that such heatwaves were becoming more frequent as a result of global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.
A Met Office study found that last year’s heatwave was 30 times more likely to occur than in 1750 because of the high amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since the pre-industrial period (1850-1900) the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by 1 degree Celsius.
“There is a 40-50% chance that this will be the warmest July on record. This heatwave is exactly in line with climate change predictions,” said Dr Karsten Haustein at the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford.
Peter Inness, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Reading, said: “The fact that so many recent years have had very high summer temperatures both globally and across Europe is very much in line with what we expect from man-made global warming.”
The heatwave in Britain is expected to come to an abrupt end on Friday with thunderstorms forecast for several parts of the country, the Met Office said.
Reporting by Freddie Hayward; editing by Stephen Addison