Why are we having a heatwave?
The UK’s soaring temperatures are associated with an area of high pressure, called a blocking anticyclone, which has been building up over Europe during the past week.
Extended periods of hot weather are not uncommon, but research also shows that climate change is making heatwaves more likely.
When high pressure blocking occurs over Europe in the summertime, the passage of weather fronts and low pressures from the North Atlantic is restricted, and we tend to get clear skies and more sunshine.
Meanwhile hot air is brought northwards to Britain from continental Europe, the Mediterranean and even from North Africa.
At this time of year it’s not unusual that winds from the south cause above average temperatures for the UK, but we can expect more record-breaking heatwaves in the future.
Professor Len Shaffrey, NCAS Senior Research Scientist based at the University of Reading, explains:
“Global temperatures are increasing due to climate change, and this rise in background temperatures means that the risk of an extreme heatwave occurring has increased.
“The probability of a heatwave such as that experienced in Europe last month (June 2019) was estimated to have become at least five times more likely due to climate change.”
Research shows that the human influence on climate is making extreme weather events such as heatwaves occur more often and more severely across the world.
Later this week weather fronts will be able to move over the UK again, once the high pressure over Europe moves slowly towards the east, bringing cooler air and possibly some rain.