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The UK experienced its highest July temperature on record last week as the mercury reached 36.7oC at Heathrow Airport. It was also the hottest day since the all-time record of 38.1oC back in August 2003.

So, why all this heat? Geography applicants should note that the very recent spike in temperatures has not been limited to our shores. Much of southern and western Europe have seen the same, with France and Spain experiencing particularly warm conditions.

High pressure has been dominant over southern Europe lately, allowing the heat to build. This, combined with recent southerly winds has seen the hot air drawn up to the UK.

Enjoyable as it may be for many to bask in the summer sun, there are risks attached. Prospective Medics should be aware that the Government has already issued health warnings to the elderly, who are less able to regulate their body temperatures sufficiently. Diminished ability to thermoregulate is evident at about age 70 and worsens with each decade of life. It can take an elderly person nearly twice the time it takes a younger person to return to a normal core body temperature after exposure to temperature extremes. Those who are heavily pregnant or seriously ill may also be at risk.

Individual weather events like the current heatwave should be treated with caution when discussing global warming. They may be examples of the extreme weather events which some scientists predict, but a warm spell alone cannot be said to be proof of global warming.

However, with the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris rapidly approaching, episodes like the present one will not go unnoticed, and may help to push the world’s leaders towards a firm set of commitments on tackling global warming.  

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