How the Saharan heatwave has turned the UK into a desert as the south and east of England see almost no rain
How the Saharan heatwave has turned the UK into a desert, as swaths of southern and eastern England see less than 1mm of rain so far this month
- The UK had its hottest day on record on July 19 as temperatures hit 40 degrees
- Compared to the south and east of England, parts of the Sahara received 5mm of rain in July
- The weather means this month could be the driest in the UK for over 250 years
- Fires burned across the country amid the heat as fields and forests remained dry
After rivaling temperatures in the Sahara last week, parts of Britain are now drier than the African desert.
Swathes of southern and eastern England have received less than 1mm of rain so far this month, according to Met Office data.
By contrast, figures provided by The Weather Company, a leading forecasting company owned by IBM, show that Laghouat, an Algerian town on the northern edge of the Sahara, received 5mm of rain this month.
A man crosses a dry bank of a tributary to the Dowry Reservoir near Oldham. Parts of southern and eastern England received less than 1mm of rain all month
With forecasts that July could be the driest in the UK for 256 years, parts of the East are set to be classed as desert.
England has been suffering from a lack of green grass since the heat wave. In London, images from Wimbledon Common, Hyde Park and Green Park show yellow, parched grass after a lack of rain.
A Londoner who visited Hackney Marshes tweeted: ‘Well that was a bit of a warm cycle house. Crossing the Hackney Marshes, I thought I was back in Australia. Never seen the grass so yellow.
Computer forecasts suggest that just 1mm of rain will fall in the east of the country for the rest of July, and between 2mm and 8mm in most other areas.
It means this month could break the 8mm record for the driest month of July measured across England and Wales set in 1825. Met Office records date back to 1766.
The dry shores of Woodhead Reservoir in West Yorkshire. Some parts of the country are so dry that they are on the verge of being considered deserts
London was recorded as warmer than Western Sahara and the Caribbean last Monday. East Anglia is on track for less than 500mm of rain in the 12 months since August last year, meaning it would be classed as a semi-arid desert.
London firefighters say they fought more than 800 grass and open ground fires from early June until July 12.
And ‘exceptional’ fire risk is predicted in Essex today, with ‘very high’ risk in the South East, East Anglia and parts of the Midlands.
The Met Office says Britain is facing drought, with parts of the south and east already in “absolute drought”, defined as 15 days without rain. The Environment Agency says one in three rivers is “exceptionally low” and some reservoirs are half empty. There is a growing likelihood of garden hose bans, and crops are also expected to be affected.
Brian Gaze, a forecaster for The Weather Outlook, said: ‘It is remarkable that parts of Britain had less rain than the Sahara in July. The ground is very dry and very little rain is expected in the first weeks of August.
Fire crews battle grass and field fires near Chesterfield in Derbyshire on July 19 as temperatures reach record highs across Britain. A large number of fires started in dry and hot conditions
A grass fire in Newgale, Pembrokeshire, as firefighters struggle to bring it under control in 40 degree heat
Met Office chief executive Penny Endersby said: “Our attention is turning to the drought and when we might see rain – and we don’t see any significant rain coming.”
On average across England and Wales, just 5mm of rain has fallen so far this month, according to Met Office figures, and warmer weather is expected at the start of the holiday season of summer.
Although lower than last week’s heat wave, which peaked at 40.3 degrees Celsius in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, the UK will see highs of 28C in the coming days. Meteorologists say there is a good chance of more hot spells in August.
Meanwhile, water companies Southern Water and Dwr Cymru warned of a garden hose ban in weeks and Kelly Hewson-Fisher of the National Farmers Union pleaded with the public to be careful not to not accidentally start fires.
“The risk of fire is still extremely high,” she said. “A dropped match or a smoking barbecue is all it takes to start a serious fire.”