Scorching summer on the way so paint your house white, advises government

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FOR the past couple of summers, the British public have suffered torrential downpours, flooding and landslides. As usual, Wimbledon has had to stop for rain.

But now, government officials are advising householders to prepare for a potential heatwave and "go Mediterranean" by painting the outside of their homes white to reflect the heat.

The advice, from the UK department of health, includes replacing metal blinds with curtains with white linings.

Details of the plan to cope with temperatures which are expected to soar this summer were released yesterday and included rather more obvious tips to stay in the shade where possible, and to avoid going outdoors between 11am and 3pm if vulnerable to heat.

The scheme urges people to think about how a hot summer could affect elderly or vulnerable friends and relatives, and advises keeping an eye on them.

High temperatures can particularly affect people with heart conditions and respiratory problems and, in extreme cases, can be fatal.

Yvonne Doyle, regional director of public health, said: "The plan encourages everyone to take practical action before a heatwave. Keeping the home as cool as possible during hot weather and remembering friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk is essential."

Earlier this month, the Met Office's long-range weather forecast indicated the UK was "odds on for a barbecue summer" with long spells of hot weather, where temperatures could top 30C (86F).

Last night, John Hammond, a spokesman for the Met Office, said: "There is a likelihood of temperatures being higher than average this summer. In Scotland temperatures could perhaps be in the mid to upper 20s C. But the warmest temperatures are likely to be in the midlands and south of England."

The highest temperature recorded last year was 30.9C.

However, Dr Stirling Howieson,a lecturer in architecture and director of the centre for environmental design and research at the University of Strathclyde, said painting houses white would not make a huge difference.

"To start painting superb sandstone houses in Scotland with white paint would be absurd. If a building is well-insulated, painting it white will make no difference as the heat would not be able to get in. I would say the advice could only apply to a very small number of houses and the effect would be really quite marginal.

"Also, in terms of replacing metal blinds, this would only be an issue if you had large south-facing windows with black Venetian blinds which act like solar conductors. If you have windows facing north this wouldn't make sense at all."

Dr Howieson added: "In the long term, say over the next ten to 15 years, we are going to see temperatures like those in the Mediterranean and in France which caused up to 15,000 deaths a few years ago. These temperatures are more likely to occur in the south-east and south west of England than Scotland."