Another health warning is issued as temperatures soar to 36C this week

Another health warning is issued as temperatures soar to 36C this week: Experts announce ‘level three’ heat alert across most of England which medics say will put the elderly and vulnerable at risk

  • The Met Office said temperatures likely to rise into the low to mid-30s in central and southern parts of the UK
  • Outside the hottest areas in the south east, much of Britain could see temperatures widely in the high 20s
  • But it will not be as extreme as the record-breaking heat in July when the thermometer climbed above 40C

Much of the UK is braced for another heatwave, with little rain expected to help relieve the threat of drought which has prompted hosepipe bans and fire warnings.

The Met Office said temperatures are likely to rise into the low to mid-30s in central and southern parts of the UK – but will not be as extreme as the record-breaking heat in July when the thermometer climbed above 40C.

Heatwave thresholds – which are met at different temperatures in different parts of the country – are likely to be hit in much of the UK.

Outside the hottest areas, much of England and Wales and south-east Scotland could see temperatures widely in the high 20s, with a chance of a few spots seeing temperatures into the low 30s, the Met Office said.

Scotland and Northern Ireland will also see temperatures in the high 20s and could reach official heatwave criteria by Friday, the forecasters said.

The UK Health Security Agency has issued a heat health alert for southern and central England from Tuesday to Saturday, with experts advising people to look out for those who are older or with existing health conditions, and young children.

Fire Fighters rushed to Ludwell Valley near the centre of Exeter after a fire took hold. The fire ripped through the grass lands, stopping merely meters away from residential houses

A dried up lake in Wanstead Park, north east London today, as Britain braces itself for another heatwave

Sunbathers enjoy the warm climes at Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, Cornwall

Firefighters across Devon have spent the day tackling grass fires around the county

With the latest heatwave coming after months of low rain, which have left the countryside and urban parks and gardens tinder-dry, households in some areas are being urged not to light fires or have barbecues.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is urging people not to light barbecues or bonfires, or let off fireworks or sky lanterns, after a large blaze which damaged gardens, sheds and trees was started by a chiminea.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 farmers and landowners in England and Wales, has demanded retailers follow the lead of Marks & Spencer and ban the sale of disposable barbecues across the UK this summer to reduce the risk of wildfires in the dry conditions.

The Met Office’s fire severity index (FSI), an assessment of how severe a fire could become if one were to start, is very high for most of England and Wales, and will reach ‘exceptional’ for a swathe of England by the weekend.

Two water companies have already announced hosepipe bans and others have warned they may need to follow suit, following the driest eight months from November to June since 1976, and the driest July on record for parts of southern and eastern England.

Scientists warn that the likelihood of droughts occurring is becoming higher due to climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and other human activities.

Families make the most of sunny weather at Porthgwidden Beach in St Ives, Cornwall

Dry earth on the banks of Grafham Water near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, where water is receding during the drought

Fire Fighters rushed to Ludwell Valley near the centre of Exeter after a fire took hold. The fire ripped through the grass lands, stopping merely meters away from residential houses

SHOW GARDENS ‘PRIORITISING WHICH PLANTS TO LOOK AFTER’ DURING DRY SPELL

Britain’s most famous gardens are prioritising which plants to look after to cope with the ‘increasingly challenging’ spell of dry weather.

Three of the 10 driest parts of England are Kew Gardens, in south-west London, the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and the RHS Garden Wisley, in Surrey.

These gardens, alongside seven other areas in the south of England, have recorded less than 250mm rainfall since November, provisional figures from the Met Office show.

But it is proving a struggle for horticulturalists, who are fighting to stop valued collections from dying out this summer.

At Kew Gardens, a Unesco World Heritage site, staff are prioritising plants that have high conservation value or historic importance – or which are extinct in the wild.

Richard Barley, Kew’s director of gardens, said this has been ‘increasingly challenging in recent weeks as we have seen very little rain’.

Protecting the 300-acre collection has been vital since the 40C heatwave last month and fears that the current mini heatwave may spark prolonged drought.

‘We do so, for example, by opting not to irrigate the wider lawns and natural habitats, instead allowing them to brown off and rejuvenate after periods of rainfall, later in the year,’ Mr Barley told the PA news agency.

Kew is also ‘avoiding excessively using sprinklers during the day’ to reduce evaporation rates, Mr Barley added, and is using its own composted mulch and slow-release watering bags to improve growing conditions.

Mr Barley said: ‘We also have to look at the wider picture and consider how the landscape itself could change over the next 50 years to make it more suited to the changing climate.

‘Part of this involves looking closely at our species selection criteria and identifying plants that may be better-adapted to warmer and drier climates zones such as the western USA and central America, the Mediterranean rim, Southern Africa, Australasia and Chile.

Meanwhile, at Cambridge University Botanic Garden, Mediterranean species such as lavender, cistus and phlomis well, are enjoying the current dry spell.

But Sally Petitt, its head of horticulture, said: ‘Other species, such as our handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata) prefer moist conditions and these have struggled in recent weeks, defoliating much earlier than normal in an attempt to preserve themselves.

‘Others, including Magnolia sprengeri ‘Diva’ have had their foliage scorched in the extreme heat. We are very conscious that plants from wetter regions such as Asian woodlands will be at far greater risk than Mediterranean plants.’

Climate change is also making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely – with last month’s record temperatures made at least 10 times more likely because of global warming, and ‘virtually impossible’ without it, research shows.

The Met Office recently raised the temperatures that have to be reached for an official heatwave for eight English counties, to reflect the warming conditions in the UK.

Met Office deputy chief meteorologist Tony Wardle said: ‘Heatwave criteria look likely to be met for large areas of the UK later this week, with the hottest areas expected in central and southern England and Wales on Friday and Saturday.

‘Temperatures could peak at 35C, or even an isolated 36C on Saturday.

‘Elsewhere will see temperatures widely into the high 20s and low 30s Celsius later this week as temperatures build day on day through the week due to an area of high pressure extending over much of the UK.

‘Coupled with the high daytime temperatures will be continued warm nights, with the mercury expected to drop to only around low 20s Celsius for some areas in the south.’

The Met Office said there is little rain in the forecast, with only the North West likely to see any short-lived showers.

Mr Wardles said: ‘Further south, which has seen little rain for some time now, dryness will continue through the week and provide no relief for parched land, especially in the South East.’

Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading, said there are many reasons why drought events become worse as a result of human-driven climate change.

A warmer atmosphere is thirstier and dries out the ground, while heatwaves exacerbate the development of drought conditions, and, because continents are warming so fast, ocean winds cannot blow enough moisture over the land.

Uneven global warming can also disrupt weather patterns, and make periods of more persistent wet or dry conditions more common.

‘Human caused warming of climate is intensifying the global water cycle and disrupting weather patterns leading to more severe droughts but also more serious flooding events across the globe,’ said Prof Allan.

Dr Leslie Mabon, lecturer in environmental systems at The Open University, said: ‘Above all else, the drought risk we are seeing in the UK is a reminder that we urgently need to tackle the problem at source: this means reducing emissions from fossil fuels to limit the extent of harmful climate change we will face.

‘Moreover, countries like the UK, which have traditionally had more a more temperate climate and have less experience of managing the prolonged effects of hot, dry spells, need to plan now to adapt to hotter weather.

‘More than encouraging individuals to save water, this also means looking at our water infrastructure and considering where investments are made to ensure we are better prepared for managing water in hot spells.’

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