During the winter months, most of us long for warmer temperatures. Sunshine, vacation, and the beach – it’s all we can think about during the cold, dreary days of winter. Summers, however, are becoming less and less fun as temperatures creep higher and higher. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in Europe. The European heatwave that has engulfed most of the continent is so bad, that their roadways and bridges are warping.
European Heatwave Causing Roads Breaking Bridges and Buckling Roads
The European heatwave that is currently taking over the continent is seeing temperatures so high, train tracks are bending and roads are buckling and becoming warped. The UK, The Netherlands, and France, have seen record-breaking temperatures almost daily for the last two weeks. Temperatures have exceeded 40℃ (104℉), which is rare for most of Europe. The problem is Europe is not built for temperatures that high. (1)
The issue is that many of the buildings and structures in Europe are old. They aren’t outfitted with the air conditioning that most people in North America enjoy. What’s worse, their infrastructure is not outfitted with such extreme temperatures in mind. For this reason, we are seeing things like railway fires and roads and bridges breaking.
“For some of our track, such high temperatures are more than our track is designed to cope with,” explained Network Rail, the organization that manages the railway infrastructure in England, Scotland, and Wales. “The problem is that when steel rails get hot, they expand, which can cause a buckled rail.”
The company has said that they are painting the rails white in an attempt to help keep them a bit cooler. Roadways and airport runways, which are made of asphalt, are also experiencing problems. This is because asphalt softens when hot. When heavy vehicles, such as trucks or planes, drive over them, they cause the road to warp. A major airport in London even had to temporarily ground flights to repair the runway due to heat damage.
France, Portugal, Spain, and Greece have been dealing with other heat-related issues besides melting roads. In these countries, deadly wildfires have forced thousands to have to evacuate their homes. So far in both Spain and Portugal, more than 2,000 people have died because of the heat and fires. The fires are damaging the land and the economy, as many popular tourist areas are now destroyed by fires. (2)
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Governments Aren’t Preparing
Zoos are reporting animals dying due to heat stress. Even places like Germany and Belgium are experiencing fires from the extreme temperatures. With thousands more dying because of the heat, it is proving how completely unprepared most of Europe is to deal with the skyrocketing temperatures. While EU countries have plans for how to deal with climate change, these plans are not well developed or well funded. This is particularly bad in northern European countries that didn’t used to get such high temperatures.
“The discrepancy between the level of danger and the pace of action is a scandal,” said Martin Herrmann, a Munich-based doctor and chair of the German Alliance for Climate Protection and Health, a network of health workers. “We don’t know when the next big thing is coming and we are not prepared.” (3)
Countries need to have protocol in place to protect their citizens during heat waves, particularly the most vulnerable. They also need to have wildfire preparedness plans. Currently, most countries don’t have these ready on any level – from the federal level down to regional.