Will there be another UK heatwave in 2023? Here's what we know

The Met Office has launched a new heatwave alert system warning people of a 'risk to life'.

·7-min read
A landscape of dry, brown and parched grass in Brockwell Park during the UK drought, on 15th August 2022, in London, England. A hosepipe ban remains in place for the Thames Water area that includes London and the south-east. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
We could see a repeat of last summer's heatwave due to an upcoming shift in global weather patterns. (Getty Images)

Worldwide weather is set to be hotter than ever later this year and next year as the predicted El Niño weather event was confirmed as having arrived.

Experts had predicted that the arrival of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) would not only see general global warming, but would also have a knock-on effect on global weather, with some warning of "unimaginable heat" this summer.

This week the natural phenomenon - a recurring climate pattern involving changes in temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean – was confirmed by US scientists as having started in the Pacific Ocean, with experts predicting its cycle will make 2024 the world's hottest year.

During the last El Nino climate pattern, in 2016, the world saw its hottest year on record.

Adam Scaife, head of long-range predictions at the Met Office, told the BBC: "It's ramping up now, there have been signs in our predictions for several months, but it's really looking like it will peak at the end of this year in terms of its intensity.

"A new record for global temperature next year is definitely plausible. It depends how big the El Niño turns out to be - a big El Niño at the end of this year, gives a high chance that we will have a new record, global temperature in 2024."

Read more: ‘Unimaginable heat’: Will this year’s El Nino cause a global warming surge?

Tom Di Liberto, climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told Reuters: "2024, I think is a year that if you're looking for a potential global record in terms of temperature is an El Nino, with the continued warming since the 2016, El Nino could lead to 2024 being one for the record books.

"It gives that little bit extra push on to the global temperatures on top of the warming that we're already causing due to human caused climate change."

UK hottest days on record. See story WEATHER Heatwave. Infographic PA Graphics. An editable version of this graphic is available if required. Please contact graphics@pamediagroup.com.
Summer 2022 saw temperatures in England exceeding 40C for the first time on record. (PA)

The arrival of El Niño comes amid predictions of longer and "more intense" hot weather this summer, along with a new heatwave alert system launched in England in preparation for the spike in temperatures.

The new system, created by the Met Office and UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) with a focus on the impact heatwaves could have on people's health.

A dedicated online platform has been launched, covering an alert status for every area of England. Any "heat-health alerts" will include details on weather conditions expected over forthcoming days.

It will also give people an outline of the impacts they can expect, a brief overview of the regional impact assessment and links to additional information, advice and guidance.

The colour coded warning system comprises green, yellow, amber and red responses - the latter of which indicates "significant risk to life for even the healthy population" and requires an emergency response.

Experts have previously warned that the heatwaves and record high temperatures seen across England last summer are likely to happen more often, last longer and be more intense in coming years and decades.

What is the summer prediction for 2023?

The Met Office's long-range forecast predicts "warmer than average" temperatures for June and July.

The forecast says 14 June to 23 June will see temperatures "still likely warm or very warm", with "plenty of settled and dry weather".

It adds: "Warmer than average overall, with the highest chance of this in the west with very warm or even locally hot weather possible."

The forecast also predicts that temperatures will be "above average in general" from 24 June to 8 July, with the warmest conditions in the west and south at first.

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - JULY 20: In this aerial view Firefighters contain a wildfire that encroached on nearby homes in the Shiregreen area of Sheffield on July 20, 2022 in Sheffield, England. Multiple fires have broke out across the UK yesterday and today as the UK experienced a record-breaking heatwave. Temperatures in many places reached 40c and over. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A wildfire rages near a residential area of Sheffield in July last year. (Getty Images)

Netweather.tv also predicted warmer than average temperatures, suggesting that overall, June, July and August temperatures are forecast to be warmer than the 1981-2010 long-term average this summer, with a difference of up to 1.5C to the 30-year average.

It predicted July to be the hottest month - perhaps up to 2.0C above average.

"For the June-July-August period, temperatures for the UK overall could be higher than the seasonal averages (based on the last 30 years) with a difference close to +1.5°C," it said.

"This hot trend is expected later in June onwards, peaking in July, which is shown quite unanimously by the seasonal NWP models. So at least one or two heat waves will be inevitable, though perhaps temperatures not to the extreme of last summer."

MERTHYR TYDFIL, WALES - AUGUST 12: A man walks on the dried shore of the Beacons Reservoir as it lies low during the current heat wave, on August 12, 2022 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Areas of the UK were declared to be in drought today as the country's Met Office continues its amber extreme heat warning for parts of England and Wales. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
A number of areas in the UK are still struggling to recover from last year's heatwave, with reservoir levels failing to replenish as much as hoped. (Getty Images)

What will the long-term UK weather be like in 2023?

Early forecasts suggest that this year's El Niño could see global warming reach the crucial barrier of a 1.5C rise since pre-industrial times.

If this happens, it could lead to more heatwaves, longer hot seasons and shorter cold seasons, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Late last year the Met Office predicted temperatures in the UK during 2023 would be between 1.08C and 1.32C above the pre-industrial average - which is pretty close to this threshold.

It suggested that 2023 will be the 10th successive year that temperatures have reached at least 1C above pre-industrial levels.

Read more: Four possible consequences of El Niño returning in 2023

Experts have suggested three consecutive years of "La Niña" events (La Niña is the opposite, cooling phase of the ESNO) have possibly "masked" the true scale of global warming in recent years.

With the UN warning that no "credible pathway" is in place to keep temperatures below 1.5C, the UK could see heatwaves above 40C more frequently.

El Niño has now been confirmed as having started in the Pacific Ocean, with its effects expected to last into spring 2024.

Already this year England saw its driest February ever, followed by its wettest ever March, signalling another year of record-breaking weather.

Read more: Is climate change to blame for the 8,000km long seaweed blob floating toward Florida and Mexico?

This week new figures showd that there has been almost no rain in England for the last three weeks, while many rivers in the north and West Midlands are notably or exceptionally low.

Less than one millimetre has fallen in the South East and North East since 31 May, with the rest of England seeing no rain at all.

The rivers Mersey, Weaver, Derwent, Till and the Upper Severn are all running at exceptionally low levels.

Most rivers across the south are normal, with the Itchen and Kennet exceptionally high.

The Environment Agency said river levels had decreased this week across all of the sites it monitors, while rainfall in May was 43% of the long term average for north-west England and 86% in the east.

Craig Snell, from the Met Office, said: “This time of year it’s not rare to have a prolonged dry spell. Go back to last year, when we had that unprecedented heatwave in July, parts of the south barely had a drop of rain for that entire month, parts of London only registered a millimetre of rain.

“That can happen when high pressure decides to settle itself across the UK, that keeps us dry, and that’s what we’ve seen for the last month or so.

Researchers from LSE's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment previously said England is "not prepared to manage future extreme heat events, particularly if these were to occur more frequently at the same magnitude and duration".

Concerns about how prepared the UK is for such high temperatures and their impact on the population has led to the development of measures such as the recently-introduced heat-health alerts.