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Heatwave health alert: Level 3 warning issued – what does it mean?

UK Weather: Major heatwave as temperatures soar

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The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office have issued a series of heat-health alerts amid high rising temperatures across the UK this week. A level three heat-health alert is currently in place in London, the East and South East of England, while a level two alert remains in place for the East Midlands and South West.

While parts of Britain saw the hottest day of the year so far on Wednesday with temperature highs of 28C in some places, the warm conditions are only forecast to heighten as the week continues.

Dan Rudman, deputy chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said: “Temperatures will continue to rise as we go through the week, becoming well above-average by Friday, when many parts of the southern half of the UK are likely to exceed 30C or even reach 34C in some places.

“This is the first spell of hot weather this year and it is unusual for the temperature to exceed these values in June.

“Many areas will also see some warm nights with minimum temperatures expected to be in the high teens or even low 20s for some overnight.”

As nice as these temperatures sound after months of cold and unsettled weather, they do meet the threshold of what the Met Office would class as a heatwave, and this means extra caution should be taken when heading outside.

Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, said: “We want everyone to enjoy the hot weather safely when it arrives and be aware of good health advice for coping with warmer conditions.

“During periods of hot weather, it is especially important to keep checking on those who are most vulnerable, such as older people and those with heart or lung conditions… and make sure to look out for signs of heat exhaustion.”

So, what do these heat-health alerts mean?

What is a heat-health alert?

The heat-health alert service is designed to help healthcare professionals manage better when facing periods of extreme temperatures.

The service forewarns periods of high temperatures, which may affect the health of the public.

The Met Office will forecast the maximum temperatures of the day and night, regionally, and when heatwave thresholds are met or passed, an alert will be issued to the relevant health professionals.

This helps health bodies prepare and take action to minimise the impact of heat on people’s health.

A heatwave threshold is met when a location sees at least three consecutive days of daily maximum temperatures, and thresholds in the UK vary by county. For example, the threshold for the south is higher than that of the north.

What do the heat-health alert levels mean?

The heat-health alert service has five response levels, ranging from zero to four based on maximum day and night temperature thresholds.

Each alert will trigger a series of actions detailed in the Heatwave Plan for England.

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As mentioned, the thresholds vary by region, but an average threshold temperature is around 30C by day and 15C overnight for at least two consecutive days.

The five levels include:

  • Level zero: Long-term planning to reduce risk from heatwaves and includes year-round joint working to reduce the impact of climate change and ensure maximum adaptation to reduce harm from heatwaves.
  • Level one: This is in place every year from June 1 until September 15, which is the period that heat-health alerts are likely to be issued. This alert level simply means that people should be aware of what to do if the alert level is raised.
  • Level two: This is issued when there is a high chance the threshold will be exceeded within a few days.
  • Level three: This is issued when the heat-health alert thresholds have been exceeded.
  • Level four: This alert is issued when a prolonged hot spell becomes much more severe.
  • A level three heat-health alert is in place for regions in the south, with sustained periods of high temperatures expected from today across the weekend.

The Met Office forecast reads: “Another warm night is expected in parts of central and southern England on Friday night before cooler and fresher conditions arrive during Saturday.

“There remains uncertainty in regards to the speed of progression of cooler conditions arriving from the north and west over the weekend.

“A slower outcome may allow for the very warm or hot conditions to persist across far southern areas on Saturday, before a more definitive return to more seasonable temperatures for all regions of England by Sunday.”

An update will be issued when the alert level changes in any region, and these are usually issued once a day by 9am BST if required.

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