2018 British Isles heatwave

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2018 United Kingdom and Ireland heat wave
The parched landscape of the United Kingdom and northwestern Europe, 15 July 2018
AreasBritish Isles
Start date22 June 2018
End date7 August 2018
Peak temp. 35.3 °C (95.5 °F), recorded at Faversham, Kent on 26 July 2018[1][2]

The 2018 Britain and Ireland heatwave was a period of unusually hot weather that took place in June, July and August. It caused widespread drought, hosepipe bans, crop failures, and a number of wildfires. These wildfires worst affected northern moorland areas around the Greater Manchester region, the largest was at Saddleworth Moor and another was at Winter Hill, together these burned over 14 square miles (36 km2) of land over a period of nearly a month.[3][4]

A heat wave was officially declared on 22 June, with Scotland and Northern Ireland recording temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) for the first time since the July 2013 heat wave. The British Isles were in the middle of a strong warm anticyclone inside a strong northward meander of the jet stream, this was part of the wider 2018 European heat wave. The Met Office declared summer 2018 the joint hottest on record together with 1976, 2003 and 2006.[5]

Weather earlier in 2018[edit]

Spring started with record cold in early March with the 2018 Great Britain and Ireland cold wave. There were three spells of summer heat afterwards, starting in mid-April. The April 2018 heatwave began on 18 and 19 April. St James's Park in London recorded the country's hottest April day in nearly 70 years when temperatures reached 28.1 °C (82.6 °F).[6] The unseasonably hot weather lasted for four days. On 22 April, the hottest London Marathon ever was recorded, with the temperature reaching 24.3 °C (75.7 °F). No national records were broken, but many places set local record high temperatures for April.[7]

After a cooler period from the end of April, temperatures started to rise again during early May. The May Day bank holiday was the hottest on record, with west London recording 28.9 °C (84.0 °F). A few days later, temperatures began to fall, but were still above average.[8] Temperatures began to rise even higher towards the end of May. It sparked violent thunderstorms leading to flash flooding, giving some parts of the country their first measurable precipitation during May. On 27 May, 81 millimetres (3.2 in) of torrential rain fell at Winterbourne, West Midlands, causing a flash flood. The majority of the country was hot and sunny.[9] May 2018 was one of the warmest and sunniest on record in the UK.[10]

Before the heat wave, anticyclonic conditions prevailed across the UK. May and early June had been much warmer and drier than average, the latter being the driest since 1925[11] due to a persistently strong Azores High. This high-pressure block prevented Atlantic low-pressure weather systems from reaching the British Isles.[12]

Summer heat wave[edit]

A park in central Southampton on 25 July
A park in central Southampton on 25 July
The same location one year later, showing a more typical appearance for the season
The same location one year later, showing a more typical appearance for the season

The heat wave began on 23 June 2018 as high pressure built across the UK. Temperatures gradually rose, and new records were set in towns and cities across the British Isles.[13] These include Glasgow in Scotland, Shannon in Ireland and both Belfast and Castlederg in Northern Ireland.[14]

This temperature rise was part of a heat wave that spanned the entire Northern Hemisphere. The heat wave had seen the hottest night ever recorded on Earth in Oman, with the lowest temperature recorded at 42.6 °C (108.7 °F), and the deaths of at least 33 people in Canada.[14][15]

Wildfires began to break out across England. The two largest fires broke out at Saddleworth Moor on 25 June, and at Winter Hill on 28 June, the former being England's largest in living memory.[3][16][17] As of September 2018, arrests were made on the charge of arson, yet the cause of these fires was undetermined.[16] However, the factor that allowed the fires to establish was the persistently hot and breezy weather conditions. This dried out vegetation and the underlying peat, allowing it to easily burn.[18]

On 2 July, forecasters predicted that high pressure would continue over the UK and that the heat wave could continue for another two weeks.[19] On 5 July, a weak weather front arrived from the west, but was mostly halted over Ireland and the Irish Sea. This caused some scattered showers over the Pennines, and a thunderstorm that caused flash floods in Tunbridge Wells.[20] The weather also affected roads nationwide, and gritters were mobilised due to the asphalt concrete softening under the extreme heat. In Heaton, Newcastle, a man sank into a melted road and required a rescue from firefighters,[21] and a bin lorry sank into a road in Newbury, Berkshire.[22]

On 10 July, a weak cold front crossed Britain from north to south, bringing low cloud levels and scattered showers. However, this cool air was quickly heated by the sun the next day, increasing temperatures yet again. The Met Office announced that the highest temperature on 23 July was 32.5 °C (90.5 °F), recorded at Santon Downham in Suffolk.[23]

Effects on the economy[edit]

The long period of dry warm weather, although with unpleasant levels of humidity, strongly boosted the domestic tourism trade during this period. The official Visit Britain body forecast the number of international visitors to the UK would increase by around 15% from the USA alone, as the effect of the worldwide Royal Wedding publicity fed through into fine summer weather and late holiday bookings.[24] Hotels in competing Mediterranean resorts, such as Ibiza, were forced to slash their prices as demand from British tourists declined sharply as people decided to holiday in the British Isles.[25] Remoter resorts and destinations benefited from visitors' attempts to escape the domestic crowds, and rural Ireland reported a dramatic increase in tourism with an average of 70% occupancy rates at smaller establishments.[26]

Many companies concerned with outdoor activities reported the usual boost in sales that comes from a good summer, and estate agents reported that the warm dry summer was also helping their industry. Fresh produce growers such as the soft fruit sector were largely unaffected by the lack of rain, with British Summer Fruits chairman Nick Marsto telling Horticulture Week trade magazine that the... "soft-fruit sector has largely avoided any adverse effects.[27]

Health effects[edit]

The heatwave added to pressure on the NHS, on A&E departments and elsewhere. Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said, "I am very worried about the impact on the NHS of this summer. We know that this hot weather, (...) affects very elderly, vulnerable people. We know that asthma sufferers suffer particularly badly in the weather. [Ashworth mentioned his first hand experiences shadowing a hospital consultant] with lots of elderly vulnerable people being admitted to A&E, lying on trolleys because there's no beds in the hospital".

There were fears of over 1,000 excess deaths during the heat wave. The Environmental Audit Committee of MP's reported fears 7,000 heat-related UK deaths annually by 2050 unless the government acts promptly. Chair of the committee, Mary Creagh said, "The government must stop playing pass the parcel with local councils and the NHS and develop a strategy to protect our ageing population from this increasing risk". At risk, groups include elderly people, small children and people with heart and/or lung conditions. There were calls for government regulations to protect an ageing population from the effects of heat, effects include increased risk of death.[28][29][30][31]

During the 2003 European heat wave in some areas of the UK there were 42% increased deaths in nursing homes and the MP's wanted hospitals and care homes to be inspected to find out if they could cope with extreme heat. The TUC and others called for regulations about maximum workplace temperatures. Frances O'Grady of the TUC stated, "With heatwaves becoming more common, we need clear and sensible rules to protect working people. We've had legal minimum temperatures at work for a long time, which work very well. The government must now act quickly on the recommendation by MPs for maximum limits on how hot workplaces can get".[28][29][30][31]

Dress codes for work and school uniform policy should be relaxed during heatwaves to improve work productivity and school learning. Ministers withdrew money for climate change adaptation officers in local authorities. Lack of "joined-up thinking" between government departments and lack of communication between the government and the public added to the death toll. Heatwave alerts are put out only if temperatures are over 30 °C, but heat-related deaths start at 25 degrees.[28][29][30][31] There were excess deaths during the 2018 heat wave but the cause is not yet known.[32]


Stocks Reservoir on 12 July
The River Wharfe at Wetherby, West Yorkshire by Wetherby Bridge having largely dried up
The River Wharfe at Wetherby by Wetherby Bridge having largely dried up
The same location in 2015, showing a more typical appearance for the season
The same location in 2015, showing a more typical appearance for the season

On 29 June, Northern Ireland Water introduced the first hosepipe ban in Northern Ireland since 1995.[33] Other water companies also had supply problems, such as United Utilities, with 500 million litres (110 million imperial gallons) more than usual being used on 1 July.[19]

On 5 July in the Republic of Ireland a state of absolute drought was declared because there had been no rainfall at 96% of its weather stations in the previous two weeks.[34] On 6 July, the first nationwide hosepipe ban in the republic's history was imposed.[35] On 19 July, the Northern Ireland ban was lifted.[36]

Crop failures[edit]

Crop Yield, vs 2012-17 average[37]
Barley (Spring) Decrease10%
Barley (Winter) Decrease2%
Wheat Decrease6%

The heat wave affected many crops, and there was concern for the wheat and barley harvests. Cases included wheat dying of drought before it could set seed, and withering of grass intended for livestock grazing, so that dairy cattle had to be grazed on land intended to grow hay or silage for winter feed for the cows.[38] By July, president of the National Farmers Union Guy Smith described the crops as "being parched to the bone". Smith further discussed the risk posed by depleted reservoirs that would normally be used for irrigation, and stated that there was a potential risk to vegetable production should the weather continue.[39]

Sporting events[edit]

A number of sporting events experienced unusual conditions as a result of the heatwave. The 2018 Open Championship which was held from 19–22 July at Carnoustie, Scotland was played with unusually brown, dry and sunbaked fairways and brown rough.[40] The India cricket team toured England during the heat wave, with their tour match against Essex being reduced from four days to three because of the high temperatures.[41]

Archaeological discoveries[edit]

The dry weather caused patterns of vegetation to be revealed, indicative of Roman and pre-Roman settlements.[42] Drainage ditches that had surrounded Iron Age hill forts and Roman settlements became filled in once those settlements were no longer in use, meaning they have a deeper quantity of topsoil and, thus, retain moisture for plants for longer.[42] The use of aerial images to identify archæological sites through cropmarks has been a methodology employed by archaeologists for decades.[43] The National Monuments Service of the Irish Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said that the increased use of aerial drone photography and the exceptional dry weather was leading to some remarkable discoveries.[43]

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales observed such indications of historical settlements across Wales,[42] including at Castell Llwyn Gwinau in Tregaron, Ceredigion, at the Cross Oak Hillfort near Talybont-on-Usk, at Caerwent, Monmouthshire and newly-discovered settlements near Magor, Monmouthshire and Langstone, Newport.[42]

Similarly, the National Monuments Service of the Irish Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht announced the discovery of a possible henge, 200-metre (660 ft) in diameter, near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne, near Newgrange, County Meath.[43]



Dry fields around Chippenham, Wiltshire, in July 2018

The drought conditions were not as bad as the mid 1970s drought.[44][45] June was notably dry, especially after a very dry May. The worst affected regions were England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland also had below average rainfall, but this was unexceptional. Some places had no rain at all.[46]


The Met Office considers the summer of 2018 to be tied with 1976, 2003 and 2006 as the hottest summer on record for the United Kingdom as a whole, with average temperatures of 15.8 °C (60.4 °F). In England, average temperatures for the summer were the highest on record at 17.2 °C (63.0 °F), narrowly ahead of the 17.0 °C (62.6 °F) average in 1976.[47] However, in the CET records (Central England Temperature records that go back to 1659), 2018 comes in 5th behind 2003, 1995, 1826 and 1976.[48]


In Wales and Northern Ireland, June 2018 was the warmest June ever recorded and in England and Scotland, June 2018 ranks within the five warmest on record.[46] In the Central England region, the CET is a long running temperature series, with records back to 1659. 2018's temperature was 16.1 °C (61.0 °F), meaning it ranks as the 18th warmest June recorded in England in the past 359 years, also being the warmest since 1976.[49]


July 2018 was again, a very hot month, with the Central England Temperature showing that July 2018 is the fourth-hottest month recorded since 1659.[50][51] It also was 138% more sunny than average being the 6th sunniest July since 1929.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Climate Summary July 2018". Met Office.
  2. ^ "Storms sweep in as temperatures cool". BBC. 27 July 2018. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Europe in flames". The Telegraph. 3 August 2018.
  4. ^ "Winter Hill moorland fire 'under control'". 16 July 2018.
  5. ^ Summer 2018 was UK's joint hottest on record, Met Office says The Guardian
  6. ^ "Hottest April day in UK since 1949". BBC News. 19 April 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  7. ^ "London Marathon hottest on record". BBC News. 22 April 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  8. ^ Grierson, Jamie (7 May 2018). "Early May bank holiday weather breaks temperature record". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  9. ^ "UK Monthly Climate Summary: May 2018" (PDF). Met Office. 4 June 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  10. ^ "Potentially record-breaking May tops up an average spring". Met Office. 1 June 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  11. ^ "UK weather: Driest start to summer on modern record". BBC News. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Monthly England & Wales precipitation (mm) 1766 - 2018". Met Office Hadley Centre. Met Office. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  13. ^ "UK heat record broken again in Wales". BBC News. 28 June 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  14. ^ a b Jason Samenow (5 July 2018). "Red-hot planet: All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  15. ^ Clive Cookson (5 July 2018). "Extreme heat sets records across the northern hemisphere". Financial Times. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Winter Hill: Crews battle 'aggressive' merged moorland fire". BBC News. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  17. ^ "Saddleworth Moor fire: Homes evacuated as blaze continues to rage". BBC News. 27 June 2018. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Expert reaction to the Manchester moorland fires". Science Media Centre. 27 June 2018.
  19. ^ a b "UK weather: Heatwave to continue for another two weeks". BBC News. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  20. ^ BBC TV 1 News, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., 5 July 2018
  21. ^ "Man gets stuck in melted tarmac". BBC News Online. 5 July 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Bin lorry sinks into town centre road". BBC News Online. 5 July 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  23. ^ "UK weather: Heatwave could send temperatures soaring higher than 35C as Britons urged to stay indoors". www.yahoo.com.
  24. ^ The Week, 12 July 2018, "Mediterranean temperatures lead to an increase in 'staycations' – and a surge in foreign visits".
  25. ^ "Sharp decline in Ibiza tourism this summer forces hotels to slash prices", Mixmag, 11 July 2018.
  26. ^ News Highland radio, "Staycations boost Irish tourism this summer", 12 July 2018.
  27. ^ Horticulture Week, "How is the hot, dry weather affecting UK fresh-produce growers, 5 July 2018.
  28. ^ a b c Regular heatwaves 'will kill thousands BBC
  29. ^ a b c Heat-related deaths will treble by 2050 unless government takes urgent action, warn MPs 'The Independent
  30. ^ a b c UK heatwave creating summer crisis for NHS, says Labour The Guardian
  31. ^ a b c Unions say action needed to protect UK workers in heatwave The Guardian
  32. ^ Deaths spiked during UK heatwave BBC
  33. ^ "Hosepipe ban introduced amid heatwave". BBC News Online. 29 June 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  34. ^ Conor Gallagher (5 July 2018). "Ireland in state of 'absolute drought' as heatwave continues". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  35. ^ "Irish Water confirms nationwide hosepipe ban from Friday". Belfast Telegraph. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  36. ^ "NI Water lifts hosepipe ban after almost three weeks". BBC News. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  37. ^ "Learning Lessons from the 2018 Agricultural Drought". nfuonline.com. Archived from the original on 10 September 2020.
  38. ^ BBC TV 1 News, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., 4 July 2018.
  39. ^ "Met Office advice to stay out of sun". 23 July 2018 – via BBC News.
  40. ^ "Carnoustie Presents a Fast, Brown Look for British Open". New York Times. 15 July 2018. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  41. ^ "India opt for three-day warm-up due to UK heat wave". ESPN Cricinfo. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  42. ^ a b c d "Heatwave unveils ancient settlements in Wales". BBC News Online. 7 July 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  43. ^ a b c "Possible Meath archaeological discovery described as 'very significant'". RTÉ. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  44. ^ "Cold, wet spring conspires against farmers – Farmers Weekly". fwi.co.uk. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  45. ^ Office, Met. "UK climate". www.metoffice.gov.uk. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  46. ^ a b "Record breaking June". Met Office. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  47. ^ "2018 joint hottest summer for UK". BBC. 3 September 2018. Retrieved 29 September 2018.
  48. ^ "Seasonal Central England Temperature, 1659 to 2021". metoffice.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 6 April 2011.
  49. ^ "Data". www.metoffice.gov.uk.
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