Britain shattered its record for highest temperature ever registered Tuesday amid a heat wave that has seared swaths of Europe and led to wildfires. The U.K.’s national weather forecaster said such highs are now a fact of life in a country ill-prepared for triple-digit heat.
Many homes, businesses, even hospitals in Britain don’t have air conditioning since their climate is usually rainy and mild. The sweltering weather has caused airports and schools to close. Train routes from London up the east and west coasts of the country were canceled. Electric companies reported mass outages, and normally busy cities appeared quiet as officials recommend that people work from home.
“There’s nothing happening anywhere, a lot of the food stalls are closed because of the heat, obviously the changing of the guard isn’t happening because of the heat. It’s still London but it’s a bit of a shame,” Ida Hyvonen, a student studying in London, said Tuesday. Fellow student Mary Kruger added that “sometimes [the heat is] really nice, better than the rain in England, but it’s too hot.”
Britain had been put on a state of national emergency over the unprecedented temperatures. London, as well as other places in Europe like Portugal, have seen wildfires stretch across neighborhoods and miles of land, helped out by the heat.
“Infrastructure, much of which was built from the Victorian times, just wasn’t built to withstand this type of temperature,” meteorologist Stephen Belcher said.
Climate scientists said the once-unthinkable temperature in London was likely to become more common in coming years.
“Of course, we will see also this natural variability, which means that we are not going to break records year by year in a single country or single region,” World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Peter Taalas said Tuesday. “But the direction is clear and in the future these kind of heatwaves are going to be normal and we will see even stronger extremes.”
Sony Kapoor, a climate and macro-economic professor at European University Institute, said he had long thought that people underestimated the physical impacts of climate change in contemporary times.
“But even I never thought we would see 40 degree Celsius in London in 2022,” Kapoor said.
Reuters contributed to this article.