The UK is in the grips of its second heatwave of the summer, and although Fussy deodorant may be keeping our armpits smelling fresh all day long, we know there are worries about the heatwave that go beyond keeping BO at bay. While we’re all trying our best to carry on working while every fan in the house is pointed directly our way, we couldn’t help but do a bit of googling, and it turns out a lot of the country has been doing the same thing. So, let’s dive into where these heat waves are coming from, why they’re happening, and what it means for our planet.
What Are Brits Googling During The Heatwave
We looked into the top questions Brits are googling about the heatwave, and apart from answering where you can get an aircon unit from (we’re not sure either...) we’re here to bring you some answers as to what’s currently happening and why.
Why Is There A Heatwave?
Heatwaves are usually caused by high atmospheric pressure. This is when air from upper levels of the atmosphere is pulled downwards towards the ground and then compressed. This causes increased temperatures, and the longer this high pressure system stays, the hotter the area becomes. In the UK, we’re used to rain, clouds and wind all year round, with average August temperatures sitting around 19°C, however, since the beginning of July, an area of high-pressure has been sat solidly over the UK, allowing temperatures to build day-on-day and repelling any weather fronts which usually bring rain and clouds.
Where Is The Heatwave Coming From?
When the UK gets bouts of very hot weather, we often think it’s ‘blown in’ from somewhere else in the world that’s used to sunnier conditions. This was true of the July heatwave, which was caused by the Azores High. It is a semi-permanent centre of high pressure which usually sits off Spain, but has expanded and pushed further north, reaching the UK. The difference with this August heatwave is, the hot weather hasn’t come from anywhere else, the high pressure has built over the UK all on its own, causing the driest July since 1935.
Has the UK Had Bad Heatwaves Before - What About 1976?
A lot of google searches have focussed on a previous UK heatwave which famously broke many records - the heatwave of 1976. That year, some areas of the South West saw no rainfall for 45 days, causing the worst drought in over a century. However, the average temperature was around 32°C, a more reasonable number than July’s 40.2°C. And this heatwave we’re currently experiencing isn’t just limited to the UK as the one of 1976 was, all around the world countries are experiencing record-breaking temperatures that are regularly being broken with each passing year.
When Is The Next Heatwave?
However hard meteorologists try, this question can never be answered with much certainty, but what most climate scientists are agreeing on is that the UK will keep experiencing bouts of extreme heat, and they’re only going to get more intense. Forecasting models have shown that highs of mid-30s will become the norm, and by the end of the century the UK could experience 40°C days every three to four years. The answer to why this is happening is one that most people have now realised - climate change isn’t something in the future, it’s happening now. Continued greenhouse gas emissions are causing more extreme weather conditions all around the world, and the UK is no exception to this.
Is The Heatwave Because Of Climate Change?
It's extremely unlikely that the UK would have since temperatures above 40 degrees if it wasn't for climate change. A study undertaken by a global team of climate boffins found that the heatwave was made at least 10 times more likely due to human-induced climate change. The results also suggest that a heatwave as intense as this one is still rare in today’s climate, even after being made more likely by climate change.
What's Next For Our Climate?
Aside from keeping cool (we vote desk fans) now more than ever we need government and brands to take responsibility for creating the change we need to see in the world. But as consumer it's important never to forget the power you have and it's only together can we do this!