September 29, 2023

Heat and Weather Resistant Infrastructure - Wiener Zeitung Online

Heat and Weather Resistant Infrastructure – Wiener Zeitung Online

The heat pushed Britain to a standstill. When more than 40 degrees were measured last week for the first time in British history, infrastructure was creaking under temperature records. Trains were canceled to prevent tracks from deforming, the road opened up on a motorway near Cambridge, and heat damage to a runway at Luton Airport delayed the start of the holiday for some Britons.

Climate change is also driving up temperatures in Austria, along with longer droughts and severe storms. As he shows in his “Wiener Zeitung” broadcast, the infrastructure in this country is much better prepared for severe weather.

Asvinagh explains that to prevent damage to the road surface on Austria’s highways, cross-links between concrete fields are arranged so that the hot concrete can expand. In the case of long periods of heat above 30 degrees, the concrete fields can still rub against each other, which can lead to warping in the road. This does not happen often: Asfinag talks about a single-digit number of such events each year. As a rule, the damage is fixed overnight so that there are no major traffic disruptions.

Under the constant heat, the concrete driveways of highways can swell. – © Asfinag

In the case of asphalt roads, on the other hand, heat-related damage occurs over a longer period of time: the asphalt becomes softer and therefore more susceptible to deformation or grooves. To prevent this, Asfinag uses stronger asphalt binders. In the summer months, road surfaces are regularly checked for damage, as well as canals adjacent to the road to prevent the highway from being flooded in heavy rain. In contrast, highways are protected from mudslides by protective structures such as ramp stabilization.

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Vienna Airport is well prepared for severe weather

At Vienna Airport, no significant difficulties due to severe weather phenomena are to be expected. The condition of the departure and landing runways is checked several times a day, and there are additional checks in case of unusual weather events such as heat, storms or strong winds. In this way, minor damages can be quickly repaired, which, as the airport assures, is very rarely necessary. The entire airport infrastructure is very resilient to weather events.

Even those who travel by train in Austria in a climate-friendly way do not have to put up with any serious rail traffic problems in the high temperatures. Although point defects due to heat can never be ruled out, the railway network operates reliably even at high temperatures, according to ÖBB. In contrast to the mild British climate, bars in Austria are exposed to a wide range of temperatures from -25 to 55 degrees anyway, after the metal gets much hotter than the ambient temperature. This puts a huge strain on the material, which is constantly being checked and developed in order to be better equipped for the harsh weather.

On the other hand, storms cause railway problems, and lightning strikes can lead to disruptions in the road network. Here, too, attempts are made to counter this with the use of resistant materials. In addition, ÖBB has an in-house weather warning service so that it can prepare for events such as storms, snow or avalanche hazards in time.

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Fluctuations in hydroelectric power stations

For trains to be able to run at all, they depend on electricity. According to a report from the Ministry of Climate Protection the previous year, between 55 and 67 percent of this is generated from hydroelectric power in Austria. Due to drought and the resulting reduced water supply in Austria’s rivers, electricity generation at power plants running on the river is currently below average, according to the association, but is well within the range of long-term fluctuations. The fact that the amount of electricity generated fluctuates with the weather is part of the “normal business” of hydropower plants and does not affect the long-term supply. Less water in rivers does not automatically mean less electricity is generated. Because this depends not only on the amount of water, but also on the height of the fall in the respective power plant. If the water level falls below the power plant, the head increases, thus mitigating the generation loss due to the reduced volume of water.

But heat has a variety of effects on the power grid: for example, if the cooling water of coal-fired power plants in other European countries becomes too warm, other types of power plants have to compensate for this failure. In turn, the increased production of electricity from solar energy can mean that a portion of this energy cannot be consumed locally, but instead must be transported to pumped storage facilities in the Alps. This is why APG is currently investing in a high capacity transmission network. At the same time, the transmission capacity of power lines decreases as the temperature of the cables increases. However, according to the APG, there were no disturbances during the recent heat waves.

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