A new heat alert system is set to help farmers and rural communities prepare for very high temperatures .

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has today (Thursday, June 1) launched a new heat-health alerting (HHA) service in partnership with the Met Office.

The new system will focus more specifically on the health impacts that high temperatures could have on the health of the population.

Any HHAs will contain the following information when issued:

  • Headline weather conditions expected in the coming days;
  • An outline of what impacts might be expected;
  • A brief overview of the regional impact assessment;
  • Links to additional information, advice and guidance.

During the “core alerting season”, which is in place between June 1 and September 30, the UKHSA and the Met Office will monitor the weather forecasts.

Where episodes of hot weather are identified, a joint dynamic risk assessment will be carried out and the appropriate alert issued.

Head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, Dr. Agostinho Sousa, said: “Our heat-health alerting system plays a vital role in notifying professionals and the public of forecasted high temperatures that can affect the health of those most at risk, particularly individuals over the age of 65 and those with pre-existing health conditions.

“Last year saw record high temperatures across England and evidence shows that heatwaves are likely to occur more often, be more intense and last longer in the years and decades ahead.

“It is important we are able to quantify the likely impacts of these heatwaves before they arrive to prevent illness and reduce the number of deaths.”

Sousa said the UKHSA is looking forward to collaborating with the Met Office to “provide evidence-based advice to professionals and the public, to ensure they are well-equipped to respond to these events”.

Met Office

In order to align with the Met Office’s current warning system, UKHSA alerts will be given a colour (yellow, amber or red) based on the combination of the impact the weather conditions could have, and the likelihood of those impacts being reached.

The four alerts are:

  • Green (preparedness): no alert will be issued as the conditions are likely to have minimal impact on health; business as usual and summer/winter planning and preparedness activities;
  • Yellow (response): these alerts cover a range of situations; yellow alerts may be issued during periods of heat/cold which would be unlikely to impact most people but could impact those who are particularly vulnerable;
  • Amber (enhanced response): an amber alert indicates that weather impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service, and at this level some health impacts may be seen across the wider population, not just the most vulnerable; non-health sectors may also start to observe impacts and a more significant coordinated response may be required;
  • Red (emergency response): a red alert indicates significant risk to life for even the healthy population; severe impacts would be expected across all sectors with a coordinated response essential.

Head of situational awareness at the Met Office, Will Lang, said: “We are looking forward to working even more closely with UKHSA following the changes to the heat-health alerting system, which builds on the work we have already been doing together.

“The effects of human-induced climate change are already being felt on UK summers with an increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme heat events over recent decades and temperatures in excess of 40°C recorded for the first time last summer.”

Lang said the updated health alerts will be complementary to, and run alongside, the Met Office’s national severe weather warnings.

They will play a “pivotal role in helping save lives, protect property and the economy as we all work to tackle adverse weather and climate change going forward”, he said.

“It is only by working in close partnership with organisations like UKHSA that effective action can be taken when it matters,” he said.