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'.

·4-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)

A new heatwave alert system has been launched in England in preparation for longer and "more intense" hot weather this summer.

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 was launched on Thursday, covering an alert status for every area of England. Any "heat-health alerts" will include details on weather conditions expected over the coming 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.

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)

Head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, Dr Agostinho Sousa, said: "Last year saw record high temperatures across England and evidence shows that heatwaves are likely to occur more often, be more intense and last longer in the years and decades ahead.

"It is important we are able to quantify the likely impacts of these heatwaves before they arrive to prevent illness and reduce the number of deaths."

Whether or not the country has the capacity to carry out the required responses is another matter, warn researchers from LSE's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

Calling for more resources to tackle the problem, they 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".

Here, Yahoo News UK explains what we know about how hot the weather could get this summer.

What is the summer prediction for 2023?

One clue we have is this year’s El Niño ocean cycle, which experts warn could trigger a global warming surge.

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a recurring climate pattern involving changes in temperature in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean – with waters warming by up to 3C.

This shift in temperature has a knock-on effect on global weather patterns, with campaigners warning that this summer's cycle could lead to "unimaginable heat".

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)

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

Professor Adam Scaife from the Met Office warns that El Niño events are "going to get stronger" as they compound the effects of climate change itself.

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.

Indeed, the warnings for this summer have already started with the Met Office predicting it will again be one of the hottest on record, in part thanks to El Niño.

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

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.

Those planning a getaway this summer should check in advance to see if there are any drought or heatwave warnings in place at their chosen destinations.

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?

Despite March's downpours, areas in the South West and East Anglia still face flood without "unseasonably sustained rainfall" in the coming months to make up for an exceptionally dry winter, the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology has warned.

A handful of areas in the UK have been officially declared as being in a drought since last summer as reservoir levels remain lower than expected, which doesn't bode well for this year.