Extreme heat triggers thunderstorms in the UK

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On 19 July the UK saw its hottest day of 2016, when the mercury topped 33 °C. The heat then triggered thunderstorms.

Extreme heat in the UK
Date & Time
19 July 2016 10:45 UTC and 19 July 18:00 UTC– 20 July 09:00 UTC
High Resolution Visible (HRV), Airmass RGB

By Ian Mills (EUMETSAT)

The Meteosat-10 HRV image from 19 July 10:45 UTC (Figure 1, top right) shows mainly clear skies over the UK, Brize Norton in Oxfordshire recorded the top temperature of 33.5 °C, — making it the hottest day of year so far.


But it was still a long way from the UK's record maximum temperature of 38.5 °C, recorded on 10 August 2003 at Faversham in Kent (Source: Met Office Climate Extremes).

A British summer is colloquially described as three nice days then a thunderstorm — and so it proved when the hottest day ended in with some thundery weather in the west and north.

In the HRV image (Figure 1) small convective clouds can be seen over northern England and Scotland.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Meteosat-10 Airmass RGB, 20 July 09:00 UTC

In the southwest corner of the image an area of cirrus moved north, heralding some heavy thunderstorms which spread north during the night across western and northern parts of the UK.

The Airmass RGB image (Figure 2) and the animation from 19 July 18:00 UTC to 20 July 09:00 UTC (MP4, 6 MB), shows a cold front moving northeast across the UK with heavy rain and thunderstorms breaking out over the northwest of England, Wales and Scotland.

Rainfall totals exceeded 50 mm in areas of Wales and northwest England, and more than 30 mm in places in Scotland.

A large mesoscale convective system (MCS) can be seen developing in the Irish sea and moving northeast over Scotland.

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