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Britons are set to enjoy another warm day today with temperatures hitting 24C (75F) – but up to 1.5 inches of rain will hit parts of the South East tonight with torrential thundery downpours expected.
The Met Office said the hot weather this week is due to an air mass from the south bringing up mild air, with the UK recording its warmest day of the year so far yesterday as London Heathrow Airport hit 27.5C (81.5F).
But forecasters warned that temperatures will slowly decline as the week goes on and the air mass moves, bringing in fresher air and conditions closer to the average for this time of year – with 19C (66F) highs by Friday.
And the Met Office issued a thunderstorm warning for southern and eastern England from 7pm tonight until 3am tomorrow, warning that spray and sudden flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions and road closures.
Forecasters also said in the warning that ‘where flooding or lightning strikes occur, there is a chance of delays and some cancellations to train and bus services, as well as possible power cuts’.
Sunrise at Branksome Chine in Bournemouth, Dorset, this morning at the start of another warm day for southern England
The sun rises behind the Svitzer London tug and the cranes of London Gateway at Tilbury in Essex on the River Thames today
The warning added that there was ‘a small chance that homes and businesses could be flooded, with damage due to floodwater or lightning strikes’ and that the storms ‘may bring disruption in some areas, especially to travel’.
The Met Office expects that the ‘developing showers and thunderstorms are likely to intensify across parts of the warning area through the evening, before easing away eastwards after midnight’.
Forecasters added that many places will likely avoid the heaviest rain and thunder, but others ‘could experience torrential downpours and frequent lightning, while large hail and strong wind gusts may also affect a few places’.
Central parts of southern England will be worst hit, and the wettest spots are expected to see 1in (25mm) of rain within an hour, and ‘a possibility that somewhere could catch over 40mm (1.6in) in two or three hours’.
This week Britain has been warmer than popular holiday destinations like the Greek island of Santorini, which only saw 26C (79F) on Tuesday. The UK’s previous 2022 high was 23.6C (73.48F) in Faversham, Kent, on May 6.
Yesterday’s high of 27.5C was about 10C above the Met Office’s long-term average daily maximum temperature for May for 1991 to 2020, although it was still well below the UK’s all-time May record of 32.8C (91F) in 1944.
Today will be largely dry and bright with long spells of sunshine and just some patchy cloud cover around, although there is a chance of a few showers developing across western Scotland.
The Met Office warning for 7pm tonight until 3am tomorrow
Cloud cover will tend to build in from the South West during the afternoon bringing showery outbreaks of rain by the evening that will also spread to Wales and continue to track north-eastwards overnight.
A few showers will be heavy and thundery but will have cleared from most areas by dawn tomorrow, leaving a fine day which will be dry with lengthy spells of sunshine and just some patchy cloud.
There is a chance of a few isolated showers developing in the West, before Friday will be dull and damp with cloudy skies and outbreaks of rain which will head north-eastwards and be heavy across northern areas.
Saturday will be mainly dry with spells of sunshine, although there will be variable amounts of cloud cover around and a chance of a few showers developing – with highs of 21C (70F) expected in the South East.
It comes ahead of the possible arrival of Saharan dust over Britain later this week – which together with a forecast for drizzle on Friday could result in ‘blood rain’ over parts of the country.
Satellite imagery from the European Space Agency shows a plume of Saharan dust making its way across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean – and it is predicted to hit the Iberian Peninsula and South East England.
This could result in ‘blood rain’, which occurs when relatively high concentrations of red-coloured dust or particles get mixed into rain, giving it a red appearance as it falls and sometimes leaving a layer of dust on cars.
The Met Office’s Richard Miles said: ‘There are some dust concentrations in the atmosphere above the UK at present which might well be washed out in the rain tonight, but it’s likely to be relatively small amounts on the whole.
‘There’s a warning out for thunderstorms for the south-eastern third of England tonight, and a squally cold front will bring wind and sometimes heavy rain to Northern Ireland and north west Scotland this evening.
‘Away from these features it will be mostly fine and dry today and tomorrow, temperatures up to 23C (73F) to 24C (75F) in London and the South East, high teens or low 20Cs elsewhere.’