Paraguay , Argentina , Chile and Brazil

Heatwaves turning into new climate risk for infrastructure

Bnamericas Published: Monday, August 22, 2022
Heatwaves turning into new climate risk for infrastructure

Heatwaves will become a new climate risk for infrastructure following record temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, while Latin American authorities are starting to study this phenomenon.

Historically, climate risks in Latin America have been associated with floods and droughts, but “the problem is that we now have a situation in which both average and maximum temperatures are rising,” José Matos, assistant professor at Portugal’s Universidade do Minho told a climate change and infrastructure webinar hosted by Universidad Católica de Valparaíso.

When asked by BNamericas if countries should start adapting their infrastructure to heatwaves, he replied that authorities should start looking at new materials and ways to factor in extreme temperatures when designing infrastructure. 

During the Northern Hemisphere summer, intense heatwaves damaged highways and airport runways, as asphalt deforms once its internal temperature reaches 45°C.

The airport division of Chile’s public works ministry (MOP) is starting to add this variable to runway design contracts, but the process is in its early stages, Marcelo Márquez, head of the bridges division, told the webinar in response to a question by BNamericas. 

Márquez added that northern regions will likely not only experience rising average temperatures but also more intense rain.

In 2015, a series of intense floods in the otherwise dry Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo regions in Chile left dozens dead and caused major infrastructure damage.

According to the latest climate report from the World Meteorological Association, 2021 saw several heatwaves across the region, with Argentina and Brazil even seeing temperatures above 40°C, while average temperatures are rising sharply in Chile and Paraguay, among other countries.

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