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Extreme Heat Melts Airport Runway in the UK

UK Extreme Heat
UK extreme heat melts airport runway adding further air travel disruption. Credit: Geoff Collins CC2 / Flickr

On Monday, Luton Airport halted flights due to the excessive heat which damaged parts of its runway adding further tension to an already tumultuous travel season. This among other parts of the UK are literally melting due to the extreme heat which gated the country recently.

The airport tweeted that the high temperatures caused “a surface defect” to be identified on the runway, later saying that the high surface temperatures had caused a small section of the surface to lift.

Within a few hours, the airport tweeted that the runway was back to fully operational again.

U.K.’s Meteorological Office identified Monday as another day with “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 95º Fahrenheit.

The incident comes as the U.K. hit its hottest day on record shortly before 1 p.m. on Tuesday with a temperature of 40.2º Celsius, or more than 104º Fahrenheit.

As the world continues to pump out fossil fuel emissions and contribute to global warming, these temperatures are likely to become more common.

Extreme heat a disruption to travel

The impact from the heat is just the latest in a string of airline travel woes across the globe. A case in point, just last week, London’s Heathrow Airport had to cap airline passengers to deal with soaring travel demands and staff shortages.

In recent weeks, thousands of flights have been canceled in the U.S., with hundreds of thousands seeing delays affecting millions of people.

While July is the warmest month for the Midlands, the highest daily temperature tends to be around 23.5º Celsius, according to the Met Office. Therefore, the latest issue at Luton is indicative of the numerous significant tolls that extreme heat can take on infrastructure.

On Monday, London’s East Midlands Railway also issued a warning urging people to refrain from traveling on Tuesday because of the extreme temperatures, which are expected to hit 38º Celsius, or more than 100º Fahrenheit, in the area.

The railway company said that the tracks are typically 20º warmer than the air, meaning that extreme temperatures can “cause the track to buckle 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 speeds reduced to as low as twenty miles per hour in some areas. Thameslink trains were also significantly limited.

Met Office scientist Nikos Christidis said in a statement that climate change is already influencing the likelihood of extreme temperatures in the U.K..

Christidis further said, “The chances of seeing 40-degree Celsius days in the UK could be as much as 10 times more likely in the current climate than under a natural climate unaffected by human influence.”

“The likelihood of exceeding 40 degrees Celsius anywhere in the U.K. in a given year has also been rapidly increasing, and, even with current pledges on emissions reductions, such extremes could be taking place every 15 years in the climate of 2100,” he added.

The excessively increasing temperatures are indicative of an ongoing lack of climate resiliency globally when it comes to infrastructure.

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