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Record-breaking temperature of 40.3C reached in Lincolnshire

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Records have been broken with the Mercury reaching 40.3C in Lincolnshire today.

London Heathrow became the first place in the UK to ever record a temperature above 40C, reporting a provisional 40.2C at 12.50pm on Tuesday.

And then at just before 5pm, a new provisional UK record temperature has been recorded of 40.3C at Coningsby, in Lincolnshire, the Met Office said.

The first ever red extreme heat warning is still in place until midnight tonight before it starts to cool tomorrow.

The unprecedented temperatures have led to fires spreading rapidly, as well as businesses and schools shutting their doors.

Met Office chief scientist Professor Stephen Belcher said: “I wasn’t expecting to see this in my career, but the UK has just exceeded 40C for the first time.”

He added: “For me it’s a real reminder that the climate has changed and will continue to change.”

He said Met Office research had showed that “it’s virtually impossible for the UK to experience 40C in an undisrupted climate, but climate change driven by greenhouse gases has made these extreme temperatures possible, and we’re actually seeing this possibility now.”

A recent Met Office study found that summers which see days above 40C are still very rare – although the risk of them is increasing – but they could occur as often as every three or four years by the end of the century if emission remain high.

Global temperature: difference from 1850-1900 average (PA Graphics) (58092397)
Global temperature: difference from 1850-1900 average (PA Graphics) (58092397)

Even with current pledges to cut emissions, 40C summers could occur every 15 years by 2100, the research found.

Prof Belcher said: “We are already committed to a level of warming and these extremes will get more extreme in the future.

“The only way we can stabilise the climate is by achieving net zero, and of course the UK has made some great strides in that direction.”

But he added: “We want to stabilise the climate at a safe level and that means reaching net zero soon.”

Climate change, as a result of human activities such as burning fossil fuels that put heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, has pushed up global and regional temperatures and made some areas drier, making heatwaves more intense, frequent and likely.

Dr Friederike Otto, from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, said: “40C at Heathrow, would have been extremely unlikely or virtually impossible without human caused climate change.

“It’s now an event that shouldn’t have surprised anyone. While still rare, 40C is now a reality of British summers.

“Whether it will become a very common occurrence or remains relatively infrequent is in our hands and is determined by when and at what global mean temperature we reach net zero.”

She also said: “It is also in our hands whether every future heatwave will continue to be extremely deadly and disruptive.

“We have the agency to make us less vulnerable and redesign our cities, homes, schools and hospitals and educate us on how to keep safe.”

Environmental groups responded to the record high temperatures by calling for candidates for the Tory leadership, who will be the next prime minister – to prioritise action on climate change.

The remaining Conservative leadership contenders have committed to meeting net zero by 2050, but have been criticised for not focusing on it in the contest.

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