28th June 2017

Why does the UK melt in a heatwave?

You might be saying to yourself that the title is a question that answers itself: the UK melts in a heatwave because… it’s a heatwave? Does that not pretty much explain itself?

The thing is, what we Brits consider to be a heatwave is normal spring (not even summer!) weather around the globe. Yet somehow, we seem to be the only nation who take to social media the moment the sun is out and cry about how it’s too hot. Everyone else seems to be able to cope – many an Australian would look at our “heatwave” temperature and laugh loudly, given their heatwaves are more like 40C during the daytime – so why can’t we Brits? Are we just not made for this?

Actually – we’re not, but it’s not our fault…

1) Air Conditioning Is Rare
Air conditioning is very much the standard in countries that have to deal with heat. It’s the standard in schools, in homes, in cars – but it’s still regarded as something of a luxury in the UK.

There’s good reason for that, really; air conditioning isn’t cheap. You have the cost of the unit itself, which is usually around £200 for small portable units, then the cost of running it. Even if you shop around with the likes of http://selectra.co.uk/ to ensure you are paying as little as possible for your energy usage, it’s still not going to be cheap. It’s still more money than using a little desk fan in between trips to stick your head in the freezer.

If air conditioning were more commonplace in homes and workplaces, then we’d likely be able to cope with the heat a lot better. As it is, we just get sweaty and struggle on.

2) Buildings Are Designed To Keep Us Warm
The majority of buildings in the UK were not built with the focus on keeping us cool. If you have ever been abroad to a genuinely hot country, then you will have seen how many of these buildings are whitewashed to reflect the light and keep them cool. None of that here.

In fact, we do the exact opposite; generations of British builders and architects have designed homes with the express intention of keeping us warm, not cool. We’re a generally cold country, with average yearly temperatures of only around 11C. While we might suffer through the indignity of a heatwave, it’s usually relatively short-lived. So we pack our homes with insulation and see heating as a necessity while air conditioning is a luxury, all because we have to deal with what’s most common.

3) We’re Not Good With Hot Weather
Finally, the simple truth… the British are not good with hot weather. We are silly with it. The first ray of sunshine hits, and guys have got their tops off and people are sunbathing in the park. We don’t pay much attention to the very real threats of heatstroke as described at http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/a28274/heat-stroke/. Furthermore, we largely see sunburn as an inconvenience rather than a health risk. You can’t blame us really; with so little sun to go around, we have to make the most of what we can – but this attitude does mean we tend to suffer more during a heatwave.

Obviously, some of us are more sensible – so use sunscreen and avoid direct sunlight to avoid the worst excesses that summer can throw at you and your family!

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One response to “Why does the UK melt in a heatwave?”

  1. gouldie7 says:

    Excellent article!

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