Why does heat in the UK hit so much harder than heat abroad?

If you’re struggling to cope with the ongoing heatwave, you’re not alone. Here’s why heat in the UK feels so different to the warm weather we enjoy abroad.     

There’s nothing quite like the rush of heat that hits you when you step off the plane in a warm country. Going on holiday isn’t all about the weather, but the experience of going abroad in summer is made even better by blue skies and plenty of sun.

Here in the UK, though, the prospect of temperatures in the early 30s is enough to make anyone a little nervous. An excuse to drink pints in the sun is nice, sure. But despite all the fun activities that come about when the weather’s hot, there’s something about a UK heatwave that’s very different to the kind of warm conditions you experience abroad.  

Instead of casting a relaxing warmth across your body, the rays produced by the UK sun feel almost oppressive and piercing. And while the opportunity to wear holiday clothes at home is nice, the way the heat lingers creates an atmosphere that feels claustrophobic and stuffy.

One thing’s for sure, it’s far from pleasant. But why? Is UK heat somehow ‘hotter’ than the heat we experience abroad? And if not, why does it feel so intense?

According to Annie Shuttleworth, a meteorologist from the Met Office, the answer lies in our psychology. 

In addition to the fact that buildings in the UK aren’t designed with hot weather in mind (in fact, many of them are designed to keep heat in, explaining why so many homes feel stuffy at this time of year), the reason why so many of us suffer in the UK could be down to the way we approach a hot day at home compared to a hot day abroad. 

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a paddling pool, a refreshing dip is probably off the cards.

“It is perhaps how heatwaves in the UK are perceived that makes them less manageable,” Shuttleworth explains. “When we experience heat abroad, we’re usually on holiday, and may be close to a pool or the beach. In general, buildings and infrastructure are also more set up for heat abroad – for example, there is more air conditioning.”

On the flipside, when we’re at home, we tend to try and ‘get on with’ the heat and go about our normal lives. As such, we don’t always wear cooler clothes, drink enough water or spend time in the shade – meaning we’re less prepared to cope with the temperatures.

Indeed, as a spokesperson for the Met Office told MyLondon: “The level of humidity can be higher in the UK than in continental Europe. If humidity is high, it is harder for the human body to keep cool as your sweat doesn’t evaporate as quickly.

“This is made worse given that we are experiencing more ‘tropical nights’ – nights where the temperature doesn’t go below 20C, meaning we get no respite from the heat and time for our body to recover.” 

As such, the heat feels more relentless and inescapable compared to heat abroad, because we’re unable to get away from it by jumping in a pool or lying in an air-conditioned room. Dealing with heat at night can also disrupt our sleep, and tiredness can make everything feel harder and more stressful to deal with.

So, while the heat in the UK isn’t exactly hotter than the heat we feel abroad, it’s safe to say you’re not going mad if you tend to find heat at home particularly unbearable.

At the end of the day, we’re just not equipped to deal with these kinds of weather conditions – so make sure you take extra care of yourself as the temperature rises. 

Images: Getty

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