LONDON – A British record high temperature of 38.7 (101.6 F) may have been reached on Thursday, provisional data from the U.K. Met Office showed on Friday.
Soaring temperatures broke records in Germany, France and the Netherlands on Thursday as a heat wave gripped Europe for the second time in a month.
The Met Office had said on Thursday that the second-highest temperature in Britain had been recorded in Cambridge, England, at 38.1 (100.58 F).
However on Friday, the agency announced a new provisional figure of 38.7 had been recorded at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. That would beat the previous record high of 38.5 (101.3 F), recorded in August 2003.
“The temperature recorded yesterday at Cambridge University Botanic Garden will require quality control and analysis over the next few days and if validated, would become the highest temperature officially recorded in the UK,” the Met Office said in a statement.
Heat waves are extreme weather events, but research shows that as the planet warms they are likely to become more frequent.
Met Office projections show that heat waves with the intensity of last summer could occur on average as regularly as every other year by the middle of the century.
The hot air that smashed European weather records looks set to move toward Greenland and could cause record melting of the world’s second-largest ice sheet, the United Nations said on Friday.
Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, said the hot air moving up from North Africa had not merely broken European temperature records on Thursday but surpassed them by 2, 3 or 4 degrees, which she described as “absolutely incredible.”
“According to forecasts, and this is of concern, the atmospheric flow is now going to transport that heat towards Greenland,” she told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.
“This will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet,” she said. “We don’t know yet whether it will beat the 2012 level, but it’s close.”
Nullis cited data from Denmark’s Polar Portal, which measures the daily gains and losses in surface mass of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
“In July alone, it lost 160 billion tons of ice through surface melting. That’s roughly the equivalent of 64 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. Just in July. Just surface melt — it’s not including ocean melt as well.”
The Greenland Ice Sheet covers 80 percent of the island and has developed over many thousands of years, with layers of snow compressed into ice.
The dome of ice rises to a height of 3,000 meters and the total volume of the ice sheet is approximately 2,900,000 cubic kilometers, which would raise global sea levels by 7 meters if it melted entirely, according to the Polar Portal website.
Greenland had not had exceptional weather this year until June, but its ice had been melting rapidly in recent weeks, she said.
The warmer air also had implications for Arctic ice extent, which was nearly the lowest on record as of July 15, Nullis said.
She said increasingly frequent and intense heat waves were linked to man-made climate change.
“What we saw with this one was that temperature records weren’t just broken, they were smashed.”
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