July 19, 2006

Britain Braced for Record July Temperatures

LONDON -- Temperatures in Britain are expected to hit all-time record highs for July on Wednesday with an outside chance of beating the hottest-ever mark.

The continuing heatwave being fanned by warm air from the Continent is forecast to push thermometers above 37 degrees Centigrade (98.6 Fahrenheit) before a respite on Thursday.

That would mean beating the 36 C July record set in Epsom, Surrey in 1911.

"That looks pretty vulnerable at the moment," a Met Office spokesman said.

At Buckingham Palace, officials were laying on plenty of water for 8,000 guests at a garden party for military veterans after several guests at a similar palace event fainted on Tuesday.

"There is shade for them, all the marquees are used, there's lots of helpers on hand for any guests who may feel unwell," a Palace spokesman said.

On Tuesday, temperatures reached 33.2 at Heathrow Airport, well above the average July maximum of 21 as the intense sunshine melted roads and shut schools.

The Met Office said areas of the southwest in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire were likely to be the hottest on Wednesday.

But the spokesman said he was not expecting the heat to rise above the all-time British high of 38.5 (101.30F) recorded at Faversham in Kent, on August 10, 2003. On Tuesday, the Met Office had put the chances of that happening at 30 percent.

Thursday will be cooler, but more humid, with temperatures in the high twenties and a scattering of thunderstorms spreading from the southwest.

The weather will remain warm over the weekend and into next week, the start of most school holidays.

The Met Office says its research shows a "significant human contribution" in the hot spells of recent years because of carbon dioxide emissions.

The government has issued a heatwave alert under a new system introduced after record hot weather in 2003 killed some 2,000 people in Britain.

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

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