Skip to main content

The UK’s extreme heatwave would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change

The UK’s extreme heatwave would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change

/

New research shows climate change was behind last week’s disastrous weather

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Multiple Fires Break Out Around Greater London Amid Record Heat
Emergency services fight fires on July 19th, 2022, in Wennington, England. A series of grass fires broke out around the British capital amid an intense heatwave.
Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

Climate change made the record-smashing heatwave in the UK last week at least 10 times more likely, new research has found. The analysis was published yesterday by the World Weather Attribution initiative, a collaboration of scientists from universities and research institutes around the globe.

“In a climate unaffected by human-induced climate change, it would be virtually impossible for temperatures in the UK to reach 40°C but climate change is already making UK heatwaves more frequent, intense and long-lasting,” Mark McCarthy, science manager of the National Climate Information Centre, said in a Met Office press release.

The Met Office declared, for the first time, a “Red” heat warning for “exceptional heat” in parts of England for July 18th and 19th. And the Health Security Agency issued its highest alert for heat health, saying “illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.”

“Climate change is already making UK heatwaves more frequent, intense and long-lasting”

Temperatures reached a scorching 40.3 degrees Celsius on July 19th in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, about 225km (140 miles) north of London, setting a new record. The UK’s previous temperature record of 38.7 degrees Celsius was set in 2019 — and that was either met or broken at 46 different weather stations throughout the UK last week.

The heat was devastating for communities accustomed to much milder temperatures. Last week’s oppressive heat mangled infrastructure — buckling train tracks, roads, and an airport runway. The fire service in London responded to more fires in a day than it had since World War II as hot, dry conditions set the stage for blazes. Authorities are still taking stock of heat-related deaths, but one early analysis estimates that 948 people may have died as a result of the heat in England and Wales from July 17th to 19th.

Temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius in the UK would have been “extremely unlikely,” the World Weather Attribution initiative says, “without human-caused climate change.” Normally, London’s average high temperature is around 23 degrees Celsius (74 degrees Fahrenheit) this time of year. Even with global warming, last week’s ridiculous temperatures are an outlier for those regions under red alert: they are only likely to occur once every 1,000 years, according to the researchers. That figure can vary from locale to locale — but it still shows how extreme the heat was.

To conduct their analysis, the scientists looked at both historical observations and climate models, focusing on the regions under the red heat warning. Both methods came to the same conclusion: the climate crisis made the UK’s extreme heatwave at least 10 times more likely.

They did notice, however, that the effects of climate change looked more severe in the real-world data than in the climate models. The researchers’ observational data analysis found that last week’s heatwave would have been 4 degrees Celsius cooler in preindustrial times — without the greenhouse gas emissions giving the planet a fever. Climate models, in contrast, found that temperatures would have been 2 degrees Celsius lower without global warming. That raises the question of whether the future could be even more disastrously hot than we’re already anticipating.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago Not just you

T
Youtube
Thomas RickerTwo hours ago
Table breaks before Apple Watch Ultra’s sapphire glass.

”It’s the most rugged and capable Apple Watch yet,” said Apple at the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra (read The Verge review here). YouTuber TechRax put that claim to the test with a series of drop, scratch, and hammer tests. Takeaways: the titanium case will scratch with enough abuse, and that flat sapphire front crystal is tough — tougher than the table which cracks before the Ultra fails — but not indestructible.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 25
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 25
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.