The rapid increase in global temperatures is becoming a challenge for the national infrastructure as never before. The rise in temperature and resulting hot weather strains the water pipelines as well as the power lines that deliver energy and the roads and railways that help us get home. The heatwaves are intensifying due to climate change across the globe, especially in the UK, which is an affluent country that has the potential to adapt to the warmer weather conditions with available resources.
However, over the previous 10 years, sufficient efforts have not been taken to address the overheating that takes place in the buildings and also the increased risk that involves vital infrastructure. Consistent weather conditions for long periods are common in the Mediterranean countries and the UK is not prepared to tackle temperatures over 38 degrees Celsius.
The steel rails can lengthen and push against the side of the track which takes a few days to get repaired.
The infrastructure of the nation has been specially designed to absorb the heat during winters, but looking at the current conditions, it must also be effective at resisting the heat in summers. With a rough idea of the current situation, there is a risk of overheating on almost 20 percent of the already existing UK infrastructure which is likely to rise as average temperatures increase.
Railways in the UK have thousands of miles of tracks that are made of steel, which has high thermal conductivity and can absorb as well as transfer a lot of heat as compared to any other construction materials. Steel tends to get 20° C hotter than the surrounding temperature. When heated, the steel rails can lengthen and push against the side of the track which takes a few days to get repaired and needs significant delays as well. Spain, France, and other hotter European countries use differently treated steel which enables the material to release heat stress more effectively.
If not maintained properly, the pipes struggle to withstand long durations of the hot season.
Making the use of both overhead lines and conductor rails, the British rail network has been electrified by up to 40 percent. The trains are ordered to move at a slower speed to avoid the bending of power lines in hot weather which can result in electrical fires. The new and modern overhead lines contain auto-tension systems along with balance weights to adjust temperatures and are less affected by a rise in temperatures as compared to the old power lines.
The other key factor of the infrastructure is water, which also holds the risk of getting affected due to the heatwave in European countries. During the colder months of the year, water pipes don’t burst as the consumption of water increases during the hot months, and the pressure on the underground water pipes increases. There are chances for the pipes to burst when the scorched soil becomes loose allowing the water pipes to shift or bend. Also, the exposed parts of the network combined with high temperatures can cause bursting.
If not maintained properly, the pipes struggle to withstand long durations of the hot season. To fix the weak spots in pipelines, polyethylene is usually used to cover and insulate the pipelines. This helps to lower the damage caused by overheating, but more research is required to make the water utilities better.
The cables for power transmission are wrapped in rubber or aluminium which are subject to expanding the heat.
The heatwave in the European countries has also taken electricity under its radar as it can cause severe problems for the electricity generating and distributing networks. The cables for power transmission are wrapped in rubber or aluminium which are subject to expanding the heat. Glass and ceramic materials are used to encase Pylons because they are better insulators but are expensive for the vast lengths of transmission cables. Another alternative for the UK is to install conductors that can work in hotter temperatures.
Electrical power lines expand and contract in severe temperatures, increasing resistance and reducing how effectively the entire system distributes energy. This is similar to how train transmission cables do. A significant decrease in efficiency has the potential to shut down power plants, leaving those attempting to stay cool in the dark.