UK weather: extreme heat warning in place for England and Wales as near 500% increase in wildfires reported – as it happened | Extreme weather

Near 500% increase in fires compared to 2021, says fire service

Dorset and Wiltshire fire service says there has been a near 500% increase in wildfires during the first 10 days of August this year compared with 2021.

Jason Moncrieff, area manager for the service, told the BBC’s Today programme:

It is a massive difference. The first 10 days of August this year versus last year there were 492% more of these types of fires. So that’s field fires, grass fires, heathland fires – all those sorts of fires in the open, a 492% increase this year.

He also said a fire on Friday on the Studland peninsula near Purbeck could have been avoided. He said:

Amazingly, yesterday’s fire looks as though it was started by a disposable barbecue. There can’t be many people in Britain who don’t know the advice at the moment is not to bring a barbecue, do not use a barbecue, especially disposable barbecues at these places such as Studland Heath. That’s our message, bring a picnic – don’t bring a barbecue.

It’s under control, it’s a lot better condition than it was yesterday [but] we’re probably going to be carrying on operations throughout the remainder of the day. How much longer I can’t really tell.

We’ve managed to put in what we call an overland main to provide water to the scene of the operation. We’re in a lot better situation than we were at the end of yesterday.

Key events

Summary

Here is a round-up of the day’s top weather-related headlines:

  • Met Office meteorologist Dan Stroud has said that the weather would continue to be dry across the south on Sunday. “For the rest of the weekend, across the south, there will be a continuation of the very dry and hot conditions,” he said.

  • Dorset and Wiltshire fire service says it has seen a near 500% increase in wildfires during the first 10 days of August this year compared with 2021.

  • The fire service also revealed that a fire on the Studland peninsula near Purbeck was probably started by a disposable barbecue. The fire service told people planning to visit the area: “Bring a picnic – don’t bring a barbecue”

  • Dorset police said on Saturday afternoon firefighters had discovered an unexploded piece of ammunition believed to date to the second world war on the scorched heathland.

  • Labour has called on the government to summon a meeting of the Cobra civil contingencies committee to ensure water supplies are protected amid the drought. Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “It has been nearly a year since they launched their National Resilience Strategy consultation and yet they don’t have a single plan”

  • The Met Office is warning of an increased risk of fires as well as adverse impacts on health for vulnerable people and the wider population.

That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, and indeed the live weather blog for today. Thanks for following along (and keep cool and hydrated).

Jon Henley

In places, the Loire can now be crossed on foot; France’s longest river has never flowed so slowly. The Rhine is fast becoming impassable to barge traffic. In Italy, the Po is 2 metres lower than normal, crippling crops. Serbia is dredging the Danube.

Across Europe, drought is reducing once-mighty rivers to trickles, with potentially dramatic consequences for industry, freight, energy and food production – just as supply shortages and price rises due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine bite.

Driven by climate breakdown, an unusually dry winter and spring followed by record-breaking summer temperatures and repeated heatwaves have left Europe’s essential waterways under-replenished and, increasingly, overheated.

With no significant rainfall recorded for almost two months across western, central and southern Europe and none forecast in the near future, meteorologists say the drought could become the continent’s worst in more than 500 years.

Met Office meteorologist Dan Stroud has said that the weather will continue to be dry across the south on Sunday.

“For the rest of the weekend, across the south, there will be a continuation of the very dry and hot conditions,” he said.

“We’re looking at temperatures, for the remainder of Saturday, of up to 34C or 35C across the south, feeling a little bit fresher across the north, but temperatures up there still well above where they should be for the time of year.

“As we move into, into Sunday, a slight change with low pressure starting to arrive from the south.

“There is an increasing risk of some isolated showers across Devon and Cornwall, very early on Sunday.

“Most places still generally dry and fine, with some strong August sunshine, with those temperatures rising rapidly during the course of Sunday morning and into the afternoon.”

He added that there was still a risk of more wildfires.

“It has been extremely dry for an extended period and the ground and vegetation has been baked dry, so there is a significant risk.”

Dorset police said on Saturday afternoon firefighters had discovered an unexploded piece of ammunition believed to date to the second world war on the scorched heathland.

The force said a bomb disposal unit would be attending and warned the public in the surrounding area they may hear a loud bang as they dispose of the device.

The West Yorkshire fire and rescue service has shared a photo showing how dry some of the nearby reservoirs are looking.

Angelique Chrisafis

Angelique Chrisafis

We reported yesterday on the potential impact of the drought on food production, but the UK isn’t the only country suffering from such issues.

In France, traditional cheese has become the latest casualty of the summer drought, as production of the salers variety in the central Auvergne region was halted due to a lack of grass for cows.

Salers is an unpasteurised cow’s cheese that has been made for centuries in central France. It carries France’s appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) stamp of approval, meaning it is unique to the small area where it is produced.

But one of the rules of its production is that the local cows must be fed on at least 75% grass from pasture if their milk is to be used.

This summer’s scorching temperatures have led most of the 76 farmers whose milk goes to the production of salers to despair that their once green pastures are parched and yellow from drought.

“There’s nothing left to eat,” one farmer, Laurent Roux, told the local radio station France Bleu. “The terrain is so dry that in places, it looks like ash. It’s dust.”

Here’s the latest from the Met Office on what to expect today:

☀️ Hot and sunny this afternoon and feeling very hot inland with temperatures reaching the mid 30s Celsius in places 📈

📉 Some coastal regions of northern and eastern Scotland and NE England will be cooler with a chance of sea fret and low cloud ☁️ pic.twitter.com/7TVUhv4HQ2

— Met Office (@metoffice) August 13, 2022

Lunchtime summary

Here’s a roundup of the day’s main developments so far:

  • Dorset and Wiltshire fire service says it has seen a near 500% increase in wildfires during the first 10 days of August this year compared with 2021.

  • The fire service also revealed a fire on the Studland peninsula near Purbeck was probably started by a disposable barbecue. The fire service told people planning to visit the area: “Bring a picnic – don’t bring a barbecue”

  • Labour has called on the government to summon a meeting of the Cobra civil contingencies committee to ensure water supplies are protected amid the ongoing drought. Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “It has been nearly a year since they launched their National Resilience Strategy consultation and yet they don’t have a single plan”

  • The Met Office is warning of an increased risks of fires as well as adverse impacts on health for both vulnerable people and the wider population. With temperatures expected at around 34C in some parts of the country, it added that “some delays to road, rail and air travel are possible, with potential for welfare issues for those who experience prolonged delays”.

The smouldering remnants of a field fire in Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire earlier this morning.

Firefighters from the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service were back today extinguishing smouldering hotspots at the scene of a huge field fire in Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire.
Firefighters from the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service were back today extinguishing smouldering hotspots at the scene of a huge field fire in Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire. Photograph: Maureen McLean/REX/Shutterstock

Five tips to help pets and wildlife beat the UK’s extreme heat.

Top up the pond and treat your pet to an ice lolly during the extreme heat in England and Wales.

Following the extreme heatwave, the Baylis Park Pond in Slough has dried out leaving ducks and wildlife displaced.

Following the extreme heatwave, the Baylis Park Pond in Slough has dried out leaving ducks and wildlife displaced.
Following the extreme heatwave, the Baylis Park Pond in Slough has dried out leaving ducks and wildlife displaced. Photograph: Maureen McLean/Rex/Shutterstock

Labour calls for Cobra meeting to protect water supplies

Labour has called on the government to summon a meeting of the Cobra civil contingencies committee to ensure water supplies are protected amid the ongoing drought.

The party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said:

This is the second major heatwave in weeks but this Tory government is failing our country yet again. Conservative inaction on drought warnings is creating a dustbowl Britain.

Instead of stepping in, ministers have fallen asleep in the midday sun. They lecture the public on the use of hosepipes, but where is their plan to protect our vital water system.

It has been nearly a year since they launched their National Resilience Strategy consultation and yet they don’t have a single plan. They are all spin and no substance.

More extreme heat and drought conditions are expected in the southern half of the UK this weekend, while the northern half is set to be struck by thunderstorms and floods.

The Met Office has issued an amber heat warning covering most of England and Wales, where temperatures of up to 34C are predicted for Saturday and Sunday, the Press Association reported.

This means heat-related illnesses including sunburn and heat exhaustion are “likely” among the general population, and delays to public transport are “possible”.

Meanwhile, a lower-level yellow warning for thunderstorms is in place from noon on Sunday until 6am on Monday for most of Scotland and Northern Ireland. This warning means there is a “small chance” of flooding in these nations and the potential for power cuts.

The highest predicted daytime temperature of 34C is forecast in the south-east on Saturday, with 32C predicted in London and 27C in Edinburgh. Temperatures around the 30C mark are expected further north in England, while much of Scotland and Northern Ireland can expect temperatures in the mid-twenties.

This comes after an official drought was declared in eight areas of England on Friday by the National Drought Group, which comprises representatives from the government, water companies, the Environment Agency and others.

A woman walking her dog through the sunburnt grass on Wimbledon Common in the bright morning sunshine.
A woman walking her dog through the sunburnt grass on Wimbledon Common in the bright morning sunshine. Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock

The Beacons reservoir near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales

Areas of the UK were declared to be in drought today as the country’s Met Office continues its amber extreme heat warning for parts of England and Wales.
Areas of the UK were declared to be in drought today as the country’s Met Office continues its amber extreme heat warning for parts of England and Wales. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

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