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Unprecedented warmth prompts 1st-ever extreme heat warning in U.K.

By Zachary Rosenthal, Accuweather.com

For the first time ever, the United Kingdom Meteorological Office has issued a red extreme heat warning for parts of the country as unprecedented warmth is set to spread across the country on Monday and Tuesday.

The Iberian Peninsula has been ground zero of what could end up being the worst heat wave to strike the European continent in the past 200 years. Temperatures in Spain and Portugal could reach up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, with the warmth expected to spread farther north into the United Kingdom and westward as far as the valleys of Hungary, eastern Croatia, eastern Bosnia, Serbia, southern Romania and northern Bulgaria.

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In the U.K., it is highly possible that the country's all-time high-temperature record, 102 degrees F, which was set in Cambridge Botanica Garden on July 25, 2019, falls by the end of the week.

"In downtown London, the temperature could approach a scorching 100 degrees F on Monday and Tuesday of next week. Birmingham, Dublin, Manchester and York could also approach July all-time records amid the sizzling conditions," AccuWeather meteorologist Renee Duff said.

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Temperatures in London are typically around 70 degrees F during mid-July.

The forecast heat led the U.K. Met Office to issue the red extreme heat warning, which says that the upcoming "exceptional hot spell" is expected to take hold and bring "widespread impacts on people and infrastructure," with illness and death possible among even fit and healthy individuals.

"Exceptional, perhaps record-breaking, temperatures are likely on Monday, then again on Tuesday. Nights are also likely to be exceptionally warm for the U.K., especially in urban areas," the warning states. The heat warning covers an area that includes the City of London.

In preparation for the intense heat, London's Hammersmith Bridge, which is undergoing significant repair, has been covered with giant pieces of foil in an attempt to stop its supporting chains from heating up to dangerous levels that could impact the bridge's structural integrity, according to the BBC.

The bridge was damaged during a 2020 heatwave when temperatures caused cracks in the bridge's cast-iron to expand. The bridge will need to close if its supporting chains warm to more than 64 degrees F.

The U.K. Met Office is warning that the heat wave may cause a series of problems, including the potential for power outages and the loss of essential services like water and cellular data, increased danger of water safety instances at busy beaches, as well as delays and cancellations to rail and air travel.

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan has initiated the Severe Weather Emergency Response Protocol to support those without houses who will be forced to sleep on the streets during the heat wave. Typically, the protocol is triggered for cold temperatures. However, the potentially record-setting heat wave has prompted unprecedented action.

Heat waves, a deadly hazard in the United States, are often even deadlier in Europe, where air conditioning does not exist in most houses and communities. This heat wave could challenge or surpass the 2003 heat wave that enveloped Europe in record heat, killing over 30,000 people directly and indirectly.

"For me, it was a shock when I moved to the U.S. [Air conditioning] doesn't exist in Europe, no. Not even in Spain or Italy. It doesn't work like that," said Agne Kajackaite, a behavioral economist at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center.

Both locals and tourists visiting Europe will need to find ways to stay cool during the heat without relying on air conditioning, access to which will be spotty at best.

Two families in London chose to beat the heat by lobbing water balloons over their respective fences, getting each other soaked while having a good time. That might not be an option for everyone, though.

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"Some of the easiest ways to lessen the risk of heat-related illnesses include drinking plenty of water or electrolyte beverages, limiting physical exertion and wearing light-colored clothing," Duff said.

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