First a heat wave, now flooding – what’s going on with the UK’s climate?

Britain’s weather has taken a terrifying turn in recent months, in particular – but what’s causing these sudden swings in climate?

A record-breaking heat wave in July saw temperatures reach an astonishing 40.3C, while a longer, albeit slightly cooler, heat wave swept across the UK just a month later.

Now there are forecasts of rain and thunderstorms that could cause further disruption, with flood warnings being issued in multiple regions.

While this is clearly caused by the climate crisis, here’s everything you need to know to understand how it really affects our daily lives.

PA Graphics via PA Graphics/Press Association Images

What caused the warm weather?

The extreme weather that spread across the UK in July was caused by an increase in continental air and the August heat wave was caused by a “stubborn high pressure area over the UK,” a Met Office spokesperson told HuffPost UK.

A heat health warning from the UK Health Security Agency is also still in effect until 9am on Tuesday.

The heatwaves have made the United Kingdom so dry that the National Drought Group has declared an official drought in eight areas in England on Friday.

Welsh Water, Southern Water and South East Water have also introduced garden hose bans, while Yorkshire Water and Thames Water plan to introduce them soon.

The Met Office also believes that despite the rain to come, this summer will be remembered as a particularly dry summer.

National Fire Chiefs Council Chairman, (NFCC) Mark Hardingham said: “I can’t remember a summer like this and I’ve been in the fire service for 32 years. We won’t see temperatures as hot as three weeks ago, but that doesn’t matter because the ground can’t get drier than it already is.”

Will there be rain?

Not only rain, but also thunder. Locations in Northern Ireland and Scotland are already seeing thunderstorms, meaning the Met Office has issued a number of yellow thunderstorm warnings. Thunderstorms are expected to move across the south by Wednesday.

Heavy rain is expected for a total of three days, possibly accompanied by hail, moving east across the country.

The Met Office expects at least 50mm of rain in two or three-hour periods in a few regions, putting low-lying roads and areas next to rolling fields at risk.

But the rain recorded in parts of southern and central England over the rest of the summer is less than a quarter of what is usually expected in a UK summer.

High pressure will have entered the UK on Thursday, so it will remain mostly dry.

Is this rain good or bad?

Well, there has been no significant rain in many southern regions since June.

But it is feared that the intense dry period – which has now lasted for several weeks – will make the country too dry to absorb the rainwater.

So there may be flash floods, but the rain will do little to mitigate the drought. Thunder can also cause power cuts.

However, rain still lessens the threat of bushfires that have put pressure on the British fire service in recent months.

Dan Stroud of the Met Office said what we really need is “an extended period of light rain, an average or slightly above-average fall,” along with a winter where constant light rain charges the soil.

Stroud said of the impending downpour: “It will help a little bit, but to be honest, it’s almost the wrong kind of rain. What we’re likely to see are some heavy, intense downpours.

“With the soil baked so dry, it’s very difficult for the soil to absorb the water really really quickly…so what usually happens in these conditions is the water drains away, and we may be able to get some surface water. have drainage problems, so some flash flooding.”

Why are our weather changing so quickly?

Short answer: climate change.

In terms of why this week in particular seems so dramatic, meteorologist Stroud said the drastic changes are the result of a change in air pressure.

Stroud said: “We’ve had several days now with clear, strong skies and strong sunshine that has warmed the ground.

“We’ve had high pressure dominating, now we have low pressure dominating, so the air is becoming more unstable.

“Because we’ve had some very high ground temperatures, it doesn’t take much to make the air even more unstable and quickly develop thunderstorms.”

Is this a one time thing?

Probably not. The climate crisis is not going anywhere and is actually getting worse as our atmosphere gets warmer.

Temperatures are expected to drop to more normal levels in August, but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect a similar scorching heat next summer.

As Professor Hannah Cloke, a natural hazards researcher at the University of Reading told the newspaper: “As average temperatures in the UK are rising, we need to shift the definition of what is ‘extremely warm’ or it will definitely become more meaningless.”

She said the UK needs to change the way we define a heat wave, as rising greenhouse gas emissions mean higher temperatures are now more common than in the past two decades.

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