A recent article, published by The Guardian, suggests that the August heatwave experienced in the UK may have been overhyped. So is this the case?
No, says Walker Institute supported PhD researcher Chloe Brimicombe. Brimicombe, whose PhD research focuses primarily on the effects of heatwaves in Africa, has recently published an article in The Conversation, in which she argues that recent heatwaves may have cost thousands of lives across the UK and western Europe and that the UK is “woefully unprepared” for a likely increase in their frequency, duration and intensity.
In her article, Brimicombe highlights the fact that, in 2003 when the UK last experienced the record temperatures of the August 2020 heatwave, over 2,000 people lost their lives. By 2050, as many as 5,000 people could die each year as a result of heat in the UK.
“It's important to point out, yes this heatwave impacted the UK with excess deaths and infrastructure challenges,” explained Brimicombe when asked for further comment, “but it was global in its scale. Many countries experienced high temperatures and heat stress conditions.”
The article highlights the limitations of current heatwave management policies in the UK and calls for a shift from reactive responses once a heatwave has been declared, to a policy of proactive adaptation and readiness for the longer, more frequent and more intense heatwaves that the future is likely to hold.