By Owen Amos & Adam Durbin
The Met Office has issued a red extreme heat warning on Monday and Tuesday in much of England, from London and the south-east up to York and Manchester.
The current highest temperature in the UK is 38.7C, in Cambridge in 2019.
High temperatures are also forecast across the UK – with amber warnings in the rest of England, all of Wales, and parts of Scotland.
London is set to be one of the hottest places in the world on Monday, with temperatures soaring above the Western Sahara and the Caribbean.
The capital is forecast to be hotter than Dakhla in Western Sahara (24C), Nassau in the Bahamas (32C), Kingston in Jamaica (33C), Malaga in Spain (28C) and Athens in Greece (35C).
The hot weather will continue on Tuesday – with overnight temperatures warned to be in the mid twenties – before cooling on Wednesday.
It is the first time the Met Office has issued a red warning since the system was introduced last year.
It means “widespread impacts on people and infrastructure” are expected, with “substantial changes in working practices and daily routines” required.
Some schools plan to close early – or not open at all – although the government has issued guidance designed to keep them open.
LNER will not run services between London and Leeds and York for much of Tuesday.
Jake Kelly from Network Rail explained precautions are being taken to mitigate the impact of the extreme temperatures, but the heat would place railway infrastructure under “exceptional stress”.
Alongside the Met Office’s red and amber warnings, the UK Health Security Agency has issued a level four warning for England, which the government is treating as a “national emergency”.
After an emergency Cobra meeting for ministers on Saturday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said ambulance capacity would increase, alongside more call handlers.
The London Ambulance Service said it had seen 7,000 calls a day with rising temperatures and expected up to 8,000 on both Monday and Tuesday. A busy day in the capital would generally see around 5,500 calls, it explained.
While there is no warning in place for Northern Ireland, temperatures are predicted to reach 30C on Monday.
The heatwave is happening when average world temperatures have risen by just over 1C from their pre-industrial levels.
We are living in the hottest period for 125,000 years, according to the UN’s climate science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
We know what is behind this – greenhouse gas emissions caused by our burning of fossil fuels like coal and gas. Concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are at the highest level for two million years and rising, according to the IPCC.
If all the promises governments made at the UN COP26 climate conference in Glasgow last year are actually implemented then we’re looking at temperatures rising by 2.4C by the end of the century.
But the bad news is that emissions of CO2 continue to increase. Without big cuts by 2030 we could see temperatures go even higher. Perhaps as much as 4C by the end of the century, scientists predict.
What does that mean? I think you know the answer to that. It means more frequent and intense heatwaves like this.
Sunday was the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching 33C in Flintshire, 32C in Cheshire, 27.7C in Armagh in Northern Ireland, and 26.4C at Auchincruive in Ayrshire.
Beaches across the country were packed, and people have been warned to take care if they cool off in water.
Water companies in southern and eastern England have warned increased demand is leading to low pressure – and even interrupted supply – for some households.
Experts have urged people to drink water, keep their curtains closed where possible, and to check on friends and relatives..
“In this country we’re used to treating a hot spell as a chance to go and play in in the sun,” said Prof Penny Endersby, Met Office chief executive. “This is not that sort of weather.”
Heatwave: More evacuations as Mediterranean wildfires spread
By Laurence Peter
France has evacuated more than 16,000 people threatened by wildfires in the south-west, as fires also spread in Spain, Croatia and Greece.
Authorities in France’s Gironde, a popular tourist region, have evacuated guards from campsites – the tourists left earlier. Fires have spread in the Teste-de-Buch and Landiras areas.
In southern Spain, more than 3,200 people fled fires in the Mijas hills, though later some were able to return.
Portugal’s fires are contained for now.
More than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heat in Portugal and Spain in recent days.
The Mijas fires in Spain are not far from Málaga, a popular tourist area. Elsewhere in Spain, wildfires have broken out in the provinces of Castilla y León, Galicia and Extremadura.
Ellen McCurdy, living in the Málaga area, told Reuters: “We just grabbed a few essentials and just ran really, and by that stage everybody along the street was on the move… there were a lot of ambulances and fire engines.”
Across the Mediterranean – from Morocco in the west to Crete in the east – thousands of firefighters and many waterbombing aircraft have been deployed. Since Tuesday, the whole region has been sweltering in severe heat, leaving vegetation bone dry.
Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and last longer because of human-induced climate change. The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to carbon emissions.
The French weather service has forecast temperatures of up to 41C (106F) in the country’s south on Sunday and new heat records are predicted for Monday. In Portugal, the temperature recently reached 47C.
In the UK there is a red warning for extreme heat across parts of England, as the country braces for record temperatures on Monday and Tuesday, possibly reaching 41C in some parts.
Dr Eunice Lo, a climate scientist at Bristol University, told the BBC that “rising temperatures are a signature of climate change” and that in the UK, 2,000 extra deaths a year were attributable to heatwaves.
Public records show that since 1884, the top 10 hottest years in the UK have all been since 2002, she said. Globally, “heatwaves are becoming more common and lasting longer,” Dr Lo added. “We need to stop burning fossil fuels, and act now and quickly.”
Morocco has ordered more than 1,300 people to leave their homes and deployed more firefighters to tackle forest blazes in the north. The worst-hit area is Larache province.
In Crete, Greek firefighters are battling a big blaze in the hills around Rethymno, on the north coast. On Saturday they said it had been partially contained.
Some areas in south-west Turkey and on Croatia’s Adriatic coast are also struggling with wildfires. A number broke out near Croatia’s resort towns of Zadar and Sibenik, but they have not forced any major evacuations.
Late on Saturday, France placed 22 more regional departments – mostly along its Atlantic coast – on high orange alert.
One resident in south-west France described the forest fires as feeling “post-apocalyptic”. Fires have burned 10,500 hectares (26,000 acres) of land there and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin praised firefighters’ “remarkable courage”.
“Everything went so fast – the fire too, was big, big, big,” Manon Jacquart, 27, told the BBC. She was evacuated from the campsite she works at early on Wednesday morning, and slept at a shelter near Teste-de-Buch where hundreds of other people also sheltered from the danger.
“I’m just worried, I’m afraid… I’m trying to be as strong as I can but I’m not ok… I want to forget this week,” she said.
Meanwhile, climbers in the Alps are being urged to postpone their trips to Mont Blanc due to the risk of rock falls caused by “exceptional climatic conditions”.
Heatwaves put the public at greater risk of heatstroke, heat exhaustion and drowning, as people rush to cool off, Dr Lo said. Pets and farm animals are also vulnerable.
“Even fit and healthy people are at risk,” she said, though the most vulnerable are young children, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.
Extreme heat can also damage infrastructure, such as melting road tarmac and buckling railway lines.
In Portugal, fires have destroyed 30,000 hectares (75,000 acres) of land this year, mainly in the north. That is the worst fire damage since the summer of 2017, when devastating fires killed some 100 people.
In southern Spain, holidaymakers on the beach in Torremolinos saw big plumes of smoke rising in the hills.
Planes have been dropping a fire retardant substance, as helicopters shuttle to and from the coast, collecting seawater to douse the flames.
“There are about 40 houses in our area, everyone was really nervous and standing outside or on balconies watching it,” said local resident Ashley Baker.
“Even now there are fires at the top of the mountains. It moved away from here, I’m very relieved.”
In Italy, the government has declared a state of emergency in the desiccated Po Valley – the country’s longest river is no more than a trickle in some places.