A temperature of 38.7C was recorded on Thursday, which – if confirmed – would be a new all-time high for the UK.
Climate experts have warned the UK will suffer heatwaves like this week’s more regularly in future – with 40C becoming the “new normal”.
They blame the continuing rise in emissions of damaging greenhouse gases for the climate emergency, which is leading to more frequent extreme weather spells.
If validated, it will become the highest temperature officially recorded in the UK, outstripping the 38.5C seen in Faversham, Kent, in August 2003.
Tomasz Schafernaker, a BBC weather forecaster, said such temperatures would normally be found in Spain, the Middle East, California and Australia.
Mark McCarthy, from the National Climate Centre at the Met Office, said: “As the official source of meteorological statistics for the UK, we take the quality of our recordings very seriously.
“We are talking about a potential new record for the highest temperature recorded in the UK and we therefore need to thoroughly investigate the observation with our partners at Cambridge University Botanic Garden through statistical analysis and by visiting, to check the site and equipment and ensure there are no potential problems.
“The Met Office observations team will carefully analyse this figure, along with any other readings submitted over the coming weeks and will keep the public, our partners and government updated.”
Jaise Kuriakose, a lecturer at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Manchester, said the speed at which climate change appeared to be happening was worrying.
“Although a record temperature is not surprising for me, I am bit alarmed with how fast we are breaking temperature records across Europe and in Arctic,” he said.
“The predictions of future climate are generally focused on what might be in 2030, 2050 or 2070 time frames. So it gives the impression that there is more time to act.
“Actions for both mitigation and adaptation of climate change needs to happen immediately. We cannot afford any more the business-as-usual approach for managing climate change.”
Karsten Haustein, of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, said: “What this short but intense episode has shown is that the potential for 40C is there. While we don’t know when it will happen for the first time, it is very probable that it is eventually going to happen if climate change continues unabated.
“This is weather on steroids.”
Meanwhile, a stage of the Tour de France was cancelled because of snow on the ground – despite most of France being gripped by Europe’s heatwave.
On Thursday Paris experienced its highest ever temperature, of 42.4C, as the heatwave neared its peak, the French state weather service said.
In the UK, Network Rail engineers worked overnight to repair damage at several locations after the temperature of steel tracks soared to up to 20C higher than the air temperature.
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