The heatwave was miserable - but we have to prepare for more in the future

People enjoy the heatwave that has arrived in the UK.

We might not like heatwaves - but we need to get used to them! - Credit: Archant

I really disliked this week's hot weather. It was uncomfortable, lethargy-inducing and thoroughly miserable in every way so far as I am concerned.

I looked for as many ways as possible to avoid it by finding places with decent air conditioning and trying to keep the house as cool as possible by shutting windows and curtains. There's a reason I've never been on holiday to the Med!

But while I have not enjoyed the weather and really hope these kind of conditions do not happen too often, I do question some of the media coverage we have seen.

Yes 40C is a temperature we have never seen in this country before. For millions of Brits feeling this kind of temperature outdoors was a new experience.

But millions of Britons do head out to Spain, Italy, Greece, The Caribbean, Florida and other places like that every summer - they are places where a temperature of 40C is normal.

Some of the apocalyptic reporting of the arrival of the heatwave was rather extreme in itself - and in trying to avoid a heatstroke epidemic I fear it could have sparked a mental health crisis by sparking fears in those who are already prone to anxiety.

All this talk that "thousands could die" because of the heatwave sounds dramatic - but it has to be seen in the context that between 600,000 and 700,000 die every year in the UK and environmental factors, heat and cold, are always likely to play a part in a small minority of those numbers.

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Having said that, if these kind of temperatures are to become more common then we may have to reconsider how we live and make adjustments.

The way houses are built will have to be rethought - at the moment much of the emphasis is put on homes that are "light and airy." If these kind of temperatures become the norm architects may have to look at a more Mediterranean-style design. 

Or even look back at properties that are centuries old for inspiration. Older thatched cottages with pretty small windows have been much cooler than many modern homes this week.

We've heard whinging about trains not running at full speed - or even not running at all. "We don't have this problem in Spain" some commentators have said.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps went on television to heavily imply that UK rail operators were somehow negligent because trains couldn't travel at full speed in these temperatures.

What he didn't say was that over the last 30 years the Spanish government has thrown tens of billions of Euros into a high-speed rail network. 

If Mr Shapps wants that kind of investment in Britain's rail network then great - but let him be honest enough to tell British travellers that their taxes would have to go up considerably to pay for it.

Greater Anglia train

If you want rail services to run at full speed during heatwaves then the government needs to find billions from taxpayers. - Credit: Paul Geater

HS2 will be a start - it will have the kind of technology that the Spanish high speed trains use. But that isn't something that can be retro-fitted to the existing network without billions of pounds and decades of disruption for travellers!

It comes back to the old question, how much do you invest in mitigating a problem that may only manifest itself very rarely?

On the rare occasions when snow brings the country to a standstill people say: "They don't have this problem in Sweden." No - but they have heavy snow every year.

If, as seems highly likely, the kind of weather we've seen this week does become more common because of humankind's damage to our atmosphere then we may have to reconsider things again.

Stop worrying about ensuring there are snowploughs everywhere and start spending more, much more, on very expensive steel for rails that doesn't expand in heat as much as normal track.

Don't just order salty grit to treat frost in winter, also order material to put down on roads that melt in summer as well.

The A14 has become uneven in the hot weather

The A14 melted near Newmarket - but it's something we need to get used to. - Credit: Cambridgeshire Police

This week's heatwave isn't likely to be the last we see. In fact some experts are warning there could be another as soon as next month.

Going Net Zero by 2050 may eventually be able to slow down the speed with which the world is heating - but that's a long way off and right now there's only one way temperatures are heading.

We have to face the fact that heatwaves like this are going to become more common and many of us will have to change our lifestyles to accommodate that1