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Can infrastructure and tourism endure triple-digit temperatures, extreme weather during ‘danger season’?

Can infrastructure and tourism tolerate triple-digit temperatures, extreme weather during 'danger season'?

Samuel Munoz, assistant professor in the Department of Marine & Environmental Sciences, says, “We’re going to keep breaking records.” Credit: Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Elizabeth O’Connell of Northeastern University-London worked from home Tuesday through Britain’s record-breaking heatwave with her curtains drawn and a Dyson fan by her side.

“Regular cold showers are a must,” said O’Connell, director of marketing and shooting for the north-east London site.

“Dog walks now take place at 6 a.m. when it is relatively cool. Few homes have air conditioning, as we have not experienced temperatures in the past to justify installing them,” she says in an email.

The heat wave hitting Europe has set temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius – or 104 Fahrenheit – for the first time in Britain, sparked wildfires in France and killed more than 1,000 people in Spain and Portugal.

Northeastern University professors say it’s a sign that more is coming as climate change continues to bring extreme weather events.

“Continents around the world are going through massive heat waves,” said Auroop Ganguly, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University.

“It’s not like they’ve never happened before. They haven’t happened for so long and happened over and over,” he says.

“We see records being broken almost every year.”

To say that northern latitudes like Britain were unprepared to turn on the broiler chickens is an understatement.

“Our overall lack of preparedness for extreme heat extends to our overall infrastructure,” O’Connell reports from London.

“So while some of my happier colleagues work at the beautifully air-conditioned campus in St Katharine Docks, many employees have not been able to travel to campus for reasons such as train cancellations and no air conditioning on the subway or buses,” she says.

CBS News reported that hundreds of trains in Britain were canceled and people were advised not to take public transport. It said London’s Luton airport had to cancel flights after part of the runway melted.

But it’s not just Europe. The Washington Post reported that Central Asia and Oklahoma and Texas are currently baking in extreme heat.

Last month, Phoenix and Las Vegas had record-high daily temperatures, while the North African city of Tunis experienced a scorching record high of 118 degrees Fahrenheit on July 13, according to NASA.

“It’s extraordinary, but it’s completely expected,” said Samuel Munoz, assistant professor of marine and environmental sciences at Northeastern University.

“Environmental and climate scientists have been predicting an increase in extreme weather events for years due to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate,” Munoz says.

“We’re going to keep breaking records,” he says.

The combination of larger wildfires, hotter heat waves and more intense hurricanes is prompting experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge to call summer “danger season.”

Kristina Dahl, chief climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a June blog post that the dangers are many: heat stress and heat stroke, exposure to mold in flood-damaged homes, and poor air quality from wildfires.

The extreme weather conditions “mix and create chains of dangers,” Dahl writes.

As an example, she says, the “mega drought” in the U.S. Southwest is making fires harder to control, leading to New Mexico having its largest wildfire ever last month, the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon fires.

Extreme weather poses a risk to summer tourism, making travel inconvenient or downright dangerous in beloved destinations around the world.

This month, the wildfire in Washburn threatened Yosemite’s National Park, the famed Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and a collapsing glacier killed 11 hikers in the Italian Dolomites, a day after record heat was recorded at the glacier’s base.

Earlier this summer, historic floods temporarily closed Yellowstone National Park for the first time in 34 years.

Increasing flooding is as much a part of climate change as heat waves and droughts, Munoz says.

“A warmer atmosphere is a ‘thirsty’ atmosphere, which increases the risk of drought and wildfires because more water evaporates from the Earth’s surface,” he says.

“At the same time, the extra water held in the atmosphere can also cause heavier rains that cause flooding,” Munoz says.

In the case of Yellowstone, scenic roads were built along rivers while the roads were unlikely to flood and wash away.

“We designed and built infrastructure for a 20th century climate. It may not work very well for a 21st century climate,” Munoz says.

The impact of extreme events on critical infrastructure can mean the difference between life and death, Dahl writes in her blog post.

During “the massive heat wave that followed on the heels of Hurricane Ida in Louisiana in 2021, for example, residents of the state were left without water or power for weeks,” she says.

“In Louisiana, the inability to cool in the storm’s aftermath ultimately led to more deaths from post-storm heat than from the storm itself, even as the storm (traveled) north, wreaking havoc and claiming dozens of lives. from Mississippi to New York.”

Officials who have plans around extreme weather events that happen every 100 to 500 years are finding that the pace has increased dramatically, Ganguly says.

He says sites in India and Pakistan that are accustomed to high temperatures are experiencing heat beyond expectations.

Climate change, sea level rise, groundwater extraction and aging infrastructure are all happening at once, says Ganguly, who published a paper 13 years ago anticipating higher-than-predicted temperature trends.

“It’s almost become a perfect storm,” he says

“These are the things we need to design for,” Ganguly says.

Ganguly recently returned from a study abroad trip to Tanzania as part of Northeastern University’s Dialogue of Civilizations program, where students of Northeastern science, engineering, social sciences and computer science learned about the infrastructure of the low-income, tourist-dependent country.

“Tanzania is constantly warming and has had flooding caused by heavy rainfall, but in other parts of the country there have been droughts that have caused crop problems,” Ganguly said.

Climate change is a global problem, but countries with few resources and incomes are more affected than richer countries, Ganguly says.

“Many more people may lose their lives” or face a difficult economic recovery after a disaster, he says.

But Tanzania, which is responsible for a small fraction of global greenhouse gas emissions, offers the opportunity to build a resilient infrastructure with critical redundancies built into the system, while also making efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. reduce it, in ways that serve as a model for the world, Ganguly says.

“They have to start almost from scratch,” he says, “allowing them to build resilience into infrastructure design while ensuring operational efficiency.”

With some help from industrialized nations and technology, it’s likely that places most at risk of climate change, like Tanzania, could make progress without burning much more fossil fuel, while also adapting better to climate change, Ganguly says.

When it comes to climate change, what happens in one country doesn’t stay there, he says.

“We share what’s happening to the planet.”

Extreme heat waves expected to increase as global temperatures rise, expert says

Provided by Northeastern University

Quote: Can infrastructure and tourism tolerate triple-digit temperatures, extreme weather during ‘danger season’? (2022, July 22) retrieved July 23, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-infrastructure-tourism-triple-digit-temperatures-extreme.html

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