Heatwave warning: UK to see highest EVER UV levels today- and its due to summer solstice

Temperatures are forecast to soar to 33C today, with the Met Office warning of a very hot day ahead. With three days of hot weather, the spate of warmth can be classed as a heatwave and has seen Brits flock to beaches, parks and their gardens to enjoy the heat.

However, those heading outside should be cautious and wear suncream, as UV levels are forecast to soar alongside the heat.

Those in England and Wales have been advised to avoid being outside at around midday on Thursday due to the climbing heat and UV levels.

The Met Office has predicted UV radiation from the sun will reach a “rare” level eight today, which means “very high”.

According to the Met Office’s website, the UV index “does not exceed eight in the UK” – but for some parts of the South West, level nine is predicted today.

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Dr Michaela Hegglin, a professor in atmospheric chemistry at the University of Reading, told Sky some of the “highest UV levels ever recorded” in Britain could be seen on Thursday.

She said: “We are at the summer solstice when the sun is almost directly overhead at one o’clock.

“UV levels this high are rare in the UK, so people with light skin should be very careful to avoid getting burnt.

“While UV is important for getting vitamin D and keeping us healthy, too much of it can cause skin cancer or eye cataracts.”

Health minister Jo Churchill encouraged people to apply sunscreen regularly and use protective wear.

She added: “Look out for those who are vulnerable in the heat, and provide support where needed, continuing to follow social distancing guidance.”

The Met Office also advised people to close curtains on rooms that face the sun and avoid excess alcohol.

Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said UV levels would reach eight across many parts of the country, and possibly reach level nine in some areas of Devon and Cornwall.


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He said: “That’s about as high as it gets really in the UK.

“The sun is as strong as it gets at the moment because we’re so close to the solstice.

“We’ve got peak sun strength, clear skies, plenty of sunshine – it’s the perfect ingredients for high UV.”

This is especially important for those looking to spend time outside today.

What is the Summer solstice?

The summer solstice is also known as a festival solstice or midsummer and occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt toward the Sun.

It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern and Southern). For that hemisphere, the summer solstice is when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is the day with the longest period of daylight. 

So, with the Sun at the highest point in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere, days have grown longer and as the heat reaches its peak during the day the Sun is directly overhead at midday.

The summer solstice officially took place on Saturday, June 20 for the Northern hemisphere, so the Sun is still very high in the sky.

Why are UV rays dangerous?

According to the World Health Organisation, the relatively long-wavelength UVA accounts for approximately 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. 

It can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin and is responsible for the immediate tanning effect. Furthermore, it also contributes to skin ageing and wrinkling.

For a long time it was thought that UVA could not cause any lasting damage.

Recent studies strongly suggest that it may also enhance the development of skin cancers.

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