Parts of the UK are literally melting due to extreme heat. On Monday, Luton Airport, about 300 km north of London, had to cancel flights because the excessive heat damaged part of the runway, which put additional strain on an already.
The airport tweeted on Monday that the high temperatures led to “a surface defect” being identified on the runway, and later said that the high surface temperatures had caused a small part of the surface to rise. Monday was another day with what the UK Meteorological Office identified as “extreme heat”, which they attribute to “exceptional, perhaps record-breaking, temperatures”. The Luton area, according to the office, saw temperatures as high as 35º Celsius – or 95 degrees Fahrenheit – on Monday.
The runway was back in full operation within a few hours, but the impact from the heat is only the latest in a number of airlines’ travel problems across the globe. Just last week, London’s Heathrow airport had toto deal with increasing travel demand and staff shortages. The last few weeks have in the United States, with hundreds of thousands seeing delays. Millions of people have been affected.
And the latest issue of Luton is an indication of a far bigger problem – the many significant charges that extreme heat can take on infrastructure.
London’s East Midlands Railway also issued a warning on Monday urging people to refrain from traveling on Tuesday due to the extreme temperatures, which are expected to reach 38 degrees Celsius, or more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, in the area.
While July is the warmest month for the Midlands, the highest daily temperature tends to be around 23.5 ºC, according to the Met Office.
In its warning, the railway said that the tracks are usually 20 degrees warmer than the air, which means that extreme temperatures can “cause the track to bend and bend” – a significant safety issue given the trains’ speeds of up to 125 miles per hour. Many of the services were canceled on Tuesday while some trains had their speed reduced to as low as 20 miles per hour in some areas. Thameslink trains were also significantly limited.
The warnings also come when Britain reached its hottest day on record just before 1pm on Tuesday with a temperature of 40.2 degrees Celsius – more than 104 degrees Fahrenheit – at Heathrow. The temperature, if confirmed, will beat the previous record set in 2019 by 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The high temperatures indicate a persistent lack of climate resilience when it comes to infrastructure.
A heat wave in the northwestern Pacific Ocean in the United States last year forced municipalities to flush their bridges to prevent them from locking and not being able to function in extreme heat, as days of triple-digit temperatures caused roads to bend and crack. And this summer, experts have warned that the US power grid may not be able to keep up with excessive burning heat.
And as the world continues to pump out fossil fuel emissions and contribute to global warming, these temperatures are likely to become much more frequent. Met Office researcher Nikos Christidis said in a statement that climate change is already affecting the likelihood of extreme temperatures in the UK
“The chances of seeing 40 degree Celsius days in the UK can be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence,” Christidis said. “The probability of exceeding 40 degrees Celsius anywhere in the UK in any given year has also increased rapidly, and even with current promises of emission reductions, such extremes could occur every 15 years in the climate in 2100.”