It’s so hot across the globe, roads and roofs are melting.
The deadly heat waves of the last week have sparked strange infrastructural events around the world as millions endure searing temperatures that are still on the rise.
The heat-related events also speak to aging infrastructures worldwide, most of which – roads, bridges, railroads, buildings – are not prepared for the sweltering conditions as of late.
So how hot has it been, exactly? Well…
The United Kingdom saw its hottest day on record Tuesday, when temperatures breached 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
It’s been so hot that a runway at London Luton Airport on the capital’s outskirts had to be closed off as it melted in the heat.
“Flights are temporarily suspended to allow for an essential runway repair after high surface temperatures caused a small section to lift,” the airport tweeted Monday.
Heat causes materials to expand and crack when temperatures rise, according to the Pennsylvania State University College of Engineering – concrete and asphalt, found on runways and roads, are no exception.
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A heat wave has now engulfed half of China, affecting more than 900 million people – or about 64% of the population. All but two northeastern provinces in China have issued high-temperature warnings, with 84 cities issuing their highest-level red alerts last week.
In the city of Chongqing, which has also been under a red alert, the heat led to the roof of the Forbidden City Cultural Relics Museum melting.
The heat dissolved the underlying tar, causing the traditional Chinese tiles to pop off.
The Hammersmith Bridge in London can now be seen with silver foil around it because of the country’s heat wave.
You might wonder why foil, and if that would attract more heat – it’s actually part of a cooling system designed to reflect sunlight and keep the bridge at a moderate temperature so its materials don’t expand and crack.
“Engineers are working round the clock to keep 135-year-old Hammersmith Bridge open during the extreme hot spell,” a news release from the Hammersmith and Fulham Council read.
The council hired world-class engineers to cover the bridge with a “£420,000 ($503,000) temperature control system to keep the bridge at a safe temperature and alleviate any stresses on the pedestals.”
“It effectively acts as a giant air conditioning unit on each of the four pedestal chains,” the council’s release said.
The bridge actually had to close in August 2020 when a heat wave caused “micro-fractures in its cast-iron pedestals.”
Railroads have also been scorched during this heat wave. So much so they’ve painted them white in London.
“The rail temperature here is over 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) so we’re painting the rails white to prevent them from getting hotter,” the UK’s Network Rail tweeted Monday. The agency regulates railway infrastructure in the UK.
By painting the rails white, they absorb less heat and expand less. This, in turn, reduces the delays during hot weather, the agency tweeted.
Scorching temperatures and a lack of rain have caused the ground in Fort Worth, Texas, to shift, according to the city’s website.
The result is “an unusually high number of water main breaks” this summer.
“Through 8 a.m. Monday, Fort Worth Water had 476 main breaks in 2022, with 221 of those in the past 90 days,” a news release from the city read. “The telling number is the 182 in the last 30 days – over 38% of the yearly total.”
These main breaks have created a sort of cocktail of chaos in Fort Worth due to Covid-19 labor shortages, which has created a backlog of leaks and repairs, the release said. And there’s the fact that because of the heat, water use has increased.
“The city is bringing in outside contractors on an emergency basis to assist in these backlogs,” the release said.