Why UK Heat Feels Hotter Than It Actually Is: An Expert's Insight

Why UK Heat Feels Hotter Than It Actually Is: An Expert's Insight

As summer finally graces the UK after a dismal start to 2024, many people are noticing that the heat feels unusually intense. Even at moderate temperatures, the heat can feel overwhelming. This phenomenon has puzzled many, especially non-Brits who have taken to TikTok to express their bewilderment.

The Unique Sensation of UK Heat

Despite temperatures being relatively mild, such as 18°C, people often feel as if it's much hotter. This sensation isn't just in our heads; there are scientific reasons behind why the UK heat feels so intense.

@calparton2224 Why is 13 degrees starting to feel hot?????? #london #londonlife #fyp ♬ original sound - Cal Parton

1. Relative Humidity

One of the primary reasons for this is relative humidity. According to Johan Jacques, chief meteorologist at KISTERS, the UK often experiences higher relative humidity compared to countries with dry heat. High humidity levels make it difficult for sweat to evaporate, which is the body’s natural cooling mechanism. This leads to a feeling of stickiness and discomfort. In contrast, in dry climates, sweat evaporates quickly, efficiently cooling the body.

2. Building Infrastructure

Another significant factor is the design of UK buildings. Most buildings in the UK are constructed to retain heat due to the typically cool and damp climate. Insulation that is beneficial in winter can make buildings unbearably hot during summer, especially in the absence of air conditioning. Many homes have small windows and poor ventilation, which exacerbate the problem. Everyday activities such as cooking or boiling water add more heat and moisture to the indoor environment, increasing the discomfort.

Why UK Heat Feels Hotter Than It Actually Is: An Expert's Insight

In contrast, buildings in hotter countries are designed to stay cool. Features such as air conditioning, thick walls, small windows, efficient ventilation, and light-colored exteriors help to moderate indoor temperatures and maintain comfort even in extreme heat.

3. Urban Heat Island Effect

Urban areas tend to be hotter than rural areas due to the heat island effect. Concrete and asphalt absorb and radiate heat, making cities warmer. Limited night-time cooling in urban areas also contributes to the discomfort during heatwaves.

Why UK Heat Feels Hotter Than It Actually Is: An Expert's Insight

Non-Brits Weigh In

Non-Brits have been vocal about this phenomenon on social media platforms like TikTok. Many have shared their experiences of feeling uncomfortably hot at temperatures that wouldn't bother them in their home countries. For instance, an Australian TikTok user, Cal Parton, expressed his surprise at sweating profusely at 13°C, a temperature he would normally find cool in Australia.

Other users have echoed similar sentiments, comparing their experiences in the UK to those in hotter climates like South Africa and finding the UK heat more uncomfortable despite lower temperatures.


In summary, the unique sensation of intense heat in the UK can be attributed to a combination of high relative humidity, inadequate ventilation in buildings designed to retain heat, and the urban heat island effect. Understanding these factors can help people better prepare for and cope with the summer heat in the UK. So, as the warm weather settles in, remember to stay hydrated, use sun protection, and find ways to keep your living space cool and comfortable.

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