July 18, 2006

Britain braced for record high temperature

LONDON (Reuters) - Temperatures could reach an all-time
high in Britain on Wednesday as the heatwave tightens its grip,
forecasters said.

There is a 30 percent chance Britain would swelter in its
hottest-ever day, with warmer weather than the Caribbean, the
Mediterranean and southeast Asia, the Met Office said on

The highest temperature ever recorded in Britain was 38.5
Celsius (101.3 Fahrenheit) at Faversham in Kent, on August 10,

"It is possible that the all-time record could be broken,"
the Met Office said.

It ascribed the current heatwave to warm air flowing across
from Continental Europe but added in a statement that its
research showed "significant human contribution" in the hot
spells of recent years because of carbon dioxide emissions.

"This is a sign of things to come, with the current
temperatures becoming a normal event by the middle of this
century," it added.

The government issued a heatwave alert under a new system
introduced after a 2003 heatwave which killed more than 2,000
people in Britain and 27,000 across Europe.

The Department of Health urged people to keep an eye on the
elderly, young children and those with chronic disease.

"These temperatures are high enough to give rise to
significant health risks," it said.

People should drink plenty of water, stay out of the sun
between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and wear loose-fitting clothes.

A smog warning was issued for most of England, with higher
ozone levels causing breathing problems for some.

"Some people are more sensitive to ozone than others and
may begin to notice an effect on their breathing," the
Environment Department said. "Avoiding exercise outdoors in the
afternoon can reduce exposure."

Bookmakers have slashed the odds on thermometers reaching
100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 C).

"We could easily be left red faced on Wednesday," said
William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.

British workers should be allowed to leave their ties and
jackets at home and go to work wearing shorts in a bid to stay
cool, said the Trades Union Congress, which represents 70
unions with nearly seven million members.

By Thursday, the Met Office expects temperatures to start
to fall as thundery showers spread from the southwest.