Red weather warning UK 2022: what does extreme heat alert mean, areas affected and Met Office weather forecast

The extreme heat will affect much of England and poses a potential ‘risk to life’

A red extreme heat warning has been issued by the Met Office for the first time ever, as forecasters warn of a “very serious situation”.

The warning covers London and parts of central England where temperatures are expected to soar as high as 40C (104F).

It is looking increasingly likely that the highest recorded temperature in the UK will be broken, beating the high of 38.7C (101.7F) set in Cambridge in 2019.

The extreme heat will affect much of England (Photo: Getty Images)

Where does the warning cover?

The warning is in place from Monday 18 July until Tuesday 19 July for parts of central, northern, eastern and southeastern England.

An amber extreme heat warning is already been in place for much of England and Wales for Sunday until Tuesday, and has today been extended to cover Cornwall, west Wales and parts of southern Scotland.

The warning says the weather could cause health problems across the population, not just among people vulnerable to extreme heat, leading to potentially serious illness or danger to life.

The Met Office said the “exceptional hot spell on Monday and Tuesday” could cause widespread disruption to travel and infrastructure, and urged people to take precautions in the heat.

What does a red heat warning mean?

A red weather warning is the most serious and means there is “very likely” there will be a risk to life, with the risk of illness not just limited to vulnerable people.

Grahame Madge, Met Office spokesman, said: “We’ve just issued a red warning for extreme heat for Monday and Tuesday which is the first such warning ever issued.

“The warning covers an area from London up to Manchester and then up to the Vale of York.

“This is potentially a very serious situation.”

The step up in warning level to red is running parrel to an increase in the current heat health warning to Level 4 for England by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

This level of alert is used when a heatwave is so severe or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. At this level, illness may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, ead of Extreme Events and Health Protection at UKHSA, said: “Heat-health alerts have now been issued to the majority of the country, with temperatures set to remain consistently high throughout the duration of the weekend and the start of next week.

“It is important to keep yourself hydrated and to find shade where possible when UV rays are strongest, between 11am and 3pm.

“If you have vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, make sure they are aware of how they can keep themselves protected from the warm weather.’’

What disruption is expected?

Hospital and train services are already under pressure from the heat, with the NHS facing a “surge” in demand from heat-related admissions, while Avanti West Coast has warned its services may be cancelled at the last minute.

Cabinet Office minister Kit Malthouse said the government is preparing for a “surge” in demand on the NHS and other services due to the heatwave, and urged the public to look out for people who were particularly vulnerable in the heat.

Passengers who wish to use Avanti West Coast services between London Euston and Scotland have been told to plan ahead due to the impact of the heat on rail lines. The company said that weekend services may be cancelled at short notice, while journeys on Monday and Tuesday will be subject to amended timetables.

Met Office Chief Meteorologist Paul Gundersen, added: “Exceptional, perhaps record-breaking temperatures are likely early next week, quite widely across the red warning area on Monday, and focussed a little more east and north on Tuesday.

“Currently there is a 50% chance we could see temperatures top 40C and 80% we will see a new maximum temperature reached.

“Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm, especially in urban areas. This is likely to lead to widespread impacts on people and infrastructure. Therefore, it is important people plan for the heat and consider changing their routines. This level of heat can have adverse health effects.”

Will schools close?

There is no specific law around school closures due to the heat, so it not expected that schools will shut their doors if temperatures continue to rise.

Schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland have already closed for the summer holidays, but pupils in England and Wales are still due to attend lessons until 22 July.

The government has not specified a maximum temperature that classrooms must reach before pupils can be sent home, so it is likely that any decision on closures will fall to individual schools.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure that temperatures in a workplace is “reasonable”, as outlined by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

It is also the duty of employers to ensure that the air in the office is clean and fresh for their staff.

The same principles can be applied to the temperatures and conditions in the classroom for children, and schools do follow the same regulations.