For much of the year, Britain is wet and dreary, more mystery novel than sparkling beach read.

Come the northern summer, though, Britons can feel a bit smug. While Americans sweat and swelter, Brits enjoy warm days and sweater-weather nights.

At least that's usually the case. But not this year.

Britain is in the throes of the longest heat wave since 1976.

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Average summer temperatures usually hover around 78 degrees (25C).

In London, it stays slightly cooler, hitting the low 70s during the day and dropping into the 50s at night.

This year, it's been nearly 10 degrees hotter, with spikes well into the 90s (30s).

It's been unusually dry, too - just 5cm of rain have fallen between June 1 and July 16, making it the driest summer on record.

And experts say the heat will last at least through until early August.

The Heat Health Watch Service, run by the Met Office and Public Health England, has issued a warning, urging people to stay inside and drink plenty of fluids.

Prime Minister Theresa May has urged people to stay out of the sun through until Saturday, when temperatures are expected to hit 93 degrees (34C).

The weather has been so hot and dry that it has turned Britain from green to brown.

Satellite images released by the Met Office show just how dramatically the weather has changed the country's topography.


In addition to browned fields and crop damage, the warm, dry weather has been blamed for fires in northwestern England and a ban on sprinklers in Ireland.

There have been some unexpected upsides.

The dry conditions exposed a "drowned village" in a reservoir in Dartmoor, Devon.

The valley was flooded in 1898, experts say, submerging village walls, a farmhouse and a bridge.

In Wales, researchers uncovered an early medieval cemetery and a prehistoric Roman farm.

The Independent newspaper described it as a "gold rush" and "near-unprecedented bonanza" for archaeologists.

A report from Britain's Met Office suggests that climate change will make heat waves more frequent and severe.

Late last week a heat wave in Scandinavia resulted in new all-time high temperature records, over 32C, as far north as inside the Arctic Circle. This extreme heat intensified the historic wildfire outbreak in Sweden.

A covered up garden at Gawthorp Hall in Lancashire has been exposed in the heatwave. Photo / Lancashire County Council
A covered up garden at Gawthorp Hall in Lancashire has been exposed in the heatwave. Photo / Lancashire County Council
How the Gawthorp Hall garden in Lancashire used to look. Photo / Lancashire County
How the Gawthorp Hall garden in Lancashire used to look. Photo / Lancashire County

JAPAN'S HEAT SOARS


Japan set a new national temperature record in the third week of a punishing heat wave that has killed dozens.

The mercury soared to 106 degrees (41c) in Kumagaya, which is about 65km northwest of Tokyo, the country's highest temperature on record.

The mark surpassed the previous record 105.8 degrees set in Shimanto, Kochi Prefecture. during August of 2013.

Dozens of locations in Japan set record highs yesterday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, and 241 individual weather stations hit at least 95 degrees (35C).

In the city of Ome on the west side of Tokyo, the mercury touched 105.4 degrees (40.8C), its highest temperature ever recorded.

Japan has staggered through blistering heat since the second week of July resulting in scores of daily, monthly and all-time heat records throughout the country.

Kyodo News reports that at least 77 heat-related deaths have occurred, including 12 yesterday, and thousands have been hospitalised.

Excessive heat was also observed in both South and North Korea Monday, AP reported. "South Korea's highest-ever morning low was recorded in the city of Gangneung, where the temperature was 31C at 6.45am," it wrote. "The morning low in Seoul was 29.2C, a record for the country's capital, according to South Korea's weather agency."

The heat is the result of an intense area of high pressure aloft, sometimes called a heat dome, which has stagnated over the region for days. This long duration heat wave comes on the heels of Japan's worst flooding event in decades that killed more than 200 people.

A woman holds a portable fan at a business district in Tokyo. Photo / AP
A woman holds a portable fan at a business district in Tokyo. Photo / AP

RECORD HEAT


Below is a brief summary of locations around the Northern Hemisphere which have witnessed all-time record heat since June.

In North America: Multiple locations in Southern California; Denver; Montreal; Mount Washington, New Hampshire; and Burlington, Vermontt.

In Europe: Multiple locations in Norway, Finland and Sweden; Glasgow, Scotland; Shannon, Ireland; Belfast and Castlederg, Northern Ireland.

In Eurasia: Multiple locations in central and east Russia; Tbilisi, Georgia; and Yerevan, Armenia.

In the Middle East: Quriyat, Oman, which posted the world's hottest low temperature ever recorded on June 28: 109 degrees (42.6C).

In Africa: Ouargla, Algeria, which may have posted the highest temperature in Algeria and the entire African continent on July 5: 124.3 degrees (51.3C).

In Asia: In addition to Japan, Taiwan may have posted its highest temperature on record.

Collectively, all of these exceptional heat milestones are consistent with what is expected in A warming world, as concentrations of greenhouse gases from human activity continue to accumulate.