Buckled road
Image: Used with permission of WKBN-TV.

When you’re cruising down the highway in an air-conditioned car, it’s easy to ignore the sweltering heat outside. But as climate change makes heat waves more common, driving may get a lot bumpier.

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Meyer: “Roads and bridges and other types of physical infrastructure are designed to be able to handle a certain range in temperatures. When you look into the future to see what temperature ranges are likely to be, in some cases they’re outside the current design standards.”

Michael Meyer is with WSP, an engineering consulting firm in Atlanta. He says that occasional hot days do not typically cause problems. The real problem comes with extended heat waves, which can cause pavement to expand and crack.

Meyer: “So what you would see is a lot of buckling of road pavements, and deterioration of the pavement itself.”

Meyer: “Anything over 110 degrees consecutively for more than ten to fifteen days, you need to seriously ask yourself the question whether the pavement is designed to handle that.”

When a road heaves or buckles from heat, it can be dangerous for drivers.

So to keep roads smooth and safe over the next several decades, Meyer says engineers need to reconsider the types of pavement they use, especially in areas facing longer bouts of extreme heat.

Reporting credit: Mark Knapp/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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