These are what the Met Office weather warning colours mean - and UK heatwave alert explained

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 2:23 pm
The Met Office expects temperatures to climb as high as 33C in some areas (Photo: ​Mark Makela/Getty Images

As temperatures across the UK continue to soar, the Met Office has issued a number of weather warnings across the rest of this week.

This is everything you need to know.

What weather warnings are in place?

Currently in the UK, the Met Office has issued amber warnings for extreme heat for Wednesday 21, Thursday 22 and Friday 23 July.

The warnings cover Northern Ireland, London and South East England, South West England, Wales and West Midlands.

On Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 of July, the warnings change to a yellow weather warning for rain, affecting Wales, East Midlands, East of England, London and South East England, North West England, South West England, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber.

What do the colours mean?

The Met Office issues its weather warnings via the National Severe Weather Warning Service, and refers to severe weather that has the potential to impact the UK.

The warnings are given a colour, yellow, amber or red, depending on a combination of factors, such as the impact the weather may have and the likelihood of those impacts occurring.

Yellow and Amber warnings “represent a range of impact levels and likelihoods” the Met Office says, and can include damage to property, travel delays, loss of water supplies and power cuts.

Red weather warnings indicate dangerous weather and that if you haven’t already done so, you should take action to keep yourself and others safe.

The Met Office says: “It is very likely that there will be a risk to life, with substantial disruption to travel, energy supplies and possibly widespread damage to property and infrastructure.

“You should avoid travelling, where possible, and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities.”

Some weather situations might be issued dual warnings - this happens when more than one type of weather poses a problem. For example, a dual warning could include a storm when impacts from both wind and rain may bring disruption.

The amber extreme heat warning is the first of its kind to be issued by the Met Office, with the weather service stating: “Much of the UK has been in heatwave conditions in recent days, but temperatures are expected to climb further early this week, possibly reaching 33C in some western areas, but widely high 20s and low 30s elsewhere.”

What does an amber extreme heat warning mean?

The Met Office says that “high temperatures both by day and night will continue this week leading to public health impacts”.

It says to expect the following:

  • Adverse health effects are likely to be experienced by those vulnerable to extreme heat
  • The wider population are likely to experience some adverse health effects including sunburn or heat exhaustion (dehydration, nausea, fatigue) and other heat related illnesses
  • Ongoing pressures of water resources
  • More people are likely to visit coastal areas, lakes and rivers, leading to an increased risk of water safety accidents
  • Some changes in working practices and daily routines likely to be required
  • An increased chance that some heat sensitive systems and equipment may fail, leading to power cuts and the loss of other services to some homes and businesses
  • Some delays to road, rail and air travel are possible, with potential for welfare issues for those who experience prolonged delays

What does a yellow rain warning mean?

“Heavy rain and thundery showers may lead to flooding and transport disruption in some places over the weekend,” the Met Office states.

You should expect the following:

  • A small chance that homes and businesses could be flooded, causing damage to some buildings
  • The slight chance of delays or cancellations to train and bus services, where flooding occurs
  • Spray and flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and some road closures
  • The small chance that some communities will become cut off by flooded roads
  • The slight chance of power cuts and loss of other services to some homes and businesses
What you need to know about weather warnings (Graphic: Mark Hall / JPIMedia)

How can I stay safe in hot weather?

The NHS says that on average, England experiences 2000 heat related deaths every single year, so it’s imperative that you know how to keep yourself safe when temperatures start climbing.

The main risks posed by a heatwave are dehydration, caused by not drinking enough water, overheating and heat exhaustion, or heatstroke.

A heatwave can affect anyone, but the most vulnerable people are:

  • Older people, especially those over 75
  • Those who live on their own, or in a care home
  • People who have serious or long term illness, including heat or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease or some mental health problems
  • Those who may find it hard to keep cool, such as babies and the very young, those who are bed bound, and those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease
  • People who spend a lot of time outside or in hot places, such as those who live in the top floor flat, the homeless or those who jobs are outside

The NHS offers the following advice to stay safe during high temperatures:

  • Stay cool indoors by closing curtains in rooms that face the sun to keep indoor spaces cooler, and remember that it may be cooler outside than inside
  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol
  • Walk in the shade, apply sunscreen regularly and wear a wide brimmed hat if you have to go out in the heat
  • Avoid exercising in the hottest parts of the day
  • Make sure and take water with you if you are travelling