UK weather: how long will Britain's heatwave last?

A sunbather enjoys the weather in St. James' Park

Britons warned to keep out of the sun and eat salad as 'Spanish plume' causes UK temperatures to soar

LAST UPDATED AT 11:52 ON Thu 17 Jul 2014

As UK temperatures soar, health officials have been issuing urgent advice to help Britons cope with the heatwave. With the country set to be hotter than Barbados and the Seychelles, many people are stocking up on barbecues, beers and bikinis...

But how long will the heatwave last?

"The suncream will not be needed for long," says The Times, with violent storms expected to sweep in on Saturday. "Torrential downpours, lightning, hail and strong gusts could arrive 24 hours after what is expected to be the hottest day of the year." Despite the showers, it is likely to remain humid and "very warm", according to forecasters, with flash floods potentially making driving conditions difficult in some parts of the UK.

What is causing temperatures to rise?

A "blast of scorching air from the Costas" will make Britain an "El of a lot hotter tomorrow", says The Sun. Described as a "Spanish Plume", the warm and humid air is moving up from the Spanish plateau to the UK and could see temperatures top 32C. But when it hits the cooler air from the Atlantic, it is forced rapidly upwards to produce thunderstorms.

Is the heatwave really dangerous?

Health officials began issuing warnings after the Met Office declared a Level Two health alert, triggered when temperatures look likely to reach between 28C and 32C over two consecutive days without dipping below 15C at night.

The Sydney Morning Herald seems amused at the "state of alarm" caused by "Britain's (sort of) heatwave", pointing out that cities in Australia had 18 days with temperatures in that range in January alone, with the mercury hitting 40C on several days. But health officials in England have said their warnings should not be taken lightly, noting that 300 people died in a four-day heatwave of July 2009 and more than 2,000 died in the ten-day heatwave of August 2003, when temperatures reached a record 38.5C.

What are officials advising?

Health officials are particularly worried about older people, young children and people with serious illnesses, as well as Muslims fasting for Ramadan. People in the South East, East and Midlands have been advised to keep out of the sun from 11am to 3pm, while pet-owners and parents have been warned not to leave animals and children locked in cars.

The Daily Telegraph highlights advice from Public Health England, which ranges from drinking plenty of water, avoiding extreme exercise and wearing suntan lotion to turning off non-essential lights and electrical equipment, eating salad and keeping an eye on overweight children.

But John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, thinks most people already know what to do when it gets hot. "We don't need this patronising nonsense, there is plenty of common sense out there," he tells the Daily Mail. "I will certainly not be taking their advice – I will be turning on my television and opening a beer from the fridge." · 

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