Yesterday a friend sent me this absolute horror show of a temperature forecast map for the UK.
It’s already been hot a while, but seemingly next Monday and Tuesday are going to feel extra unlivable for us in the UK, where it’s not very common for people to have air con or many other anti-being-too-hot facilities.
The MET has issued an extreme heat warning. The NHS is trying to brace itself for yet more health emergencies in amongst all the ongoing Covid.
This kind of heat can in particular be dangerous to older people with certain medical conditions, so there’s lots of good advice out there about checking on your potentially vulnerable neighbours. But if it gets hot enough that a level 4 heatwave alert is issued for the first time ever, then then even the risk-factor-free population may suffer harm if precautions are not taken.
Some of the potential side-effects of this type of excessive heat can include:
- Road surfaces and pavements melting, as happened in previous heatwaves.
- Railway lines buckling. Railway lines can get to be 20 degrees hotter than the air temperature. At a certain temperature, restrictions are placed on the speed of trains.
- Electricity supply problems - both because there’s an increase in demand for energy, and the heat reduces how much power the system can carry. Plus power stations get less efficient. It’s possible that certain designs of nuclear power reactors have to shut down because the water used to cool them gets too warm, although so far that’s never happened in the UK.
- Water shortages, due to excessive demand.
- Wildfires starting.
- Smell, dust, infestations.
- Reduced crop harvests.
Basically a lot of stuff that in extremis sounds a little dystopian. But it is 2022, so I wouldn’t rule any of it out.
There’s an estimated 30% chance that next week will in fact beat the current UK highest ever temperature on record, which was 38.7 degrees Celsius in July 2019.
New temperature records - and the associated death and destruction - might not be rare in the future though if we don’t finally find a way to reduce humanity’s damage to the environment. A study from a couple of years back estimated that temperatures about 40 degrees would be seen every 3-4 years in the UK by the end of the century if we don’t do something to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.