CR 71:63-73 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01428

Projections of severe heat waves in the United Kingdom

M. G. Sanderson*, G. P. Ford 

Met Office, Fitzroy Road, Exeter EX1 3PB, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Climate change is expected to impact upon public health via changes in mortality rates associated with rising temperatures. This study analysed changes in characteristics of heat waves in the UK using an ensemble of regional climate model simulations generated with the Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) A1B scenario. The heat wave definitions are employed by Public Health England for issuing warnings to vulnerable people in England. In agreement with previous studies, the numbers and frequencies of heat waves are projected to increase across the UK as the climate warms. In the model, the number of heat wave days increased by up to 2 d decade-1 during the twenty-first century, with the highest rates in South East England and the lowest in western coastal regions. The heat wave season, represented as the months affected by heat waves, was projected to expand from July and August in the present day climate to May to September by the middle of the twenty-first century, with occasional heat waves in April and October by the end of the century. In some parts of England and Wales, extreme heat waves lasting >20 d were projected to occur once per decade by the end of the twenty-first century. By the end of the century, over half of the UK would be under heat wave conditions at some point in every year. The most extreme heat wave would affect between 62 and 85% of the UK land area and would last for 8 consecutive days.


KEY WORDS: Heat waves · Mortality · Climate models · Projections · UK


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Cite this article as: Sanderson MG, Ford GP (2016) Projections of severe heat waves in the United Kingdom. Clim Res 71:63-73. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01428

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