16:55 08 July 2010
The UK has had one of the driest first six months for 100 years, records show.
According to official figures from the Met Office, June ended with below average rainfall. And provisional recordings show that January to June had average rainfall of around 362.5 mm.
The figures make it the second driest in a century. The year 1953 saw slightly less rainfall (361.1mm.), but the driest start recorded was1929, when only 275.7mm of rain fell.
The typical average rainfall for the first six months of the year is 511.7mm.
As well as leaving the reservoirs below ordinary levels, resulting in a hosepipe ban in some areas, the forecast of higher temperatures has prompted the first Heat-Health alert of the summer.
The yearly Heat Health Watch System is designed to protect those who could be seriously affected by the heat wave conditions, including the elderly, those with chronic diseases babies and young children. These people are most at risk during hot weather spells and should be regularly checked to make sure they are not suffering.
Forecasters predict that temperatures will peak across East Anglia and south east England during Friday and Saturday, where highs of over 30C are possible.
Head of health forecasting at the Met Office, Wayne Elliott, said: "While there is the possibility of daytime temperatures reaching trigger thresholds, it is the night time values which are of real concern.
"High humidity and the lack of any breeze could make matters worse for people with underlying health problems."
However, unsettled conditions and varied weather is expected over the next few days in some areas, with temperatures only reaching the low 20s across parts of the UK.
Chief forecaster at the Met Office, Frank Saunders, added: "There is a 60% chance of some places in East Anglia and south east England reaching 32C but it is important to note that it won't be hot everywhere. Cloud and some rain are expected for a time over northern regions of the UK."
The drier conditions since January have led to pressure on water resources in some regions. Communications director Barrie Clarke from water industry representative Water UK said: "These figures paint a graphic picture of why reservoir levels in the west are so low by comparison with normal years. During such a dry spell it makes sense to use water wisely wherever you live."
The lack of rainfall has been caused by a lack of Atlantic weather systems, which usually cross the UK bringing bands of rain, especially to western regions.
For those in the south of the country, the NHS advises that those at risk can keep cool by wearing loose cotton clothes, spraying or splashing cold water on the face and back of the neck several times a day, and by staying in the coolest rooms of the home as much as possible. Windows should be also kept closed when the room is cooler than it is outside.
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