Germany has set up speed limits on the Autobahn due to a massive heat wave gripping Europe.
Europe is currently being gripped in its worst heat wave since 2003 when temperatures spiked into the 110s in many countries. The same thing is happening this week in countries like France and Spain, with Paris hitting 102 degrees F (39 C) on Wednesday and parts of Spain hitting 100 degrees F (38 C). Those temperatures are expected to climb by Friday and Saturday.
Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany have already set records for the hottest June in history, and it’s causing German officials to take extra steps to ensure people’s safety.
One of those steps is to place speed limits on the Autobahn, but it’s not out of fear for cars overheating. It’s for fear of the road itself getting too hot.
Extreme heat waves like the one in Europe can cause pavement and asphalt to rapidly expand. This can cause even a well-engineered highway like Germany’s autobahn to buckle and split, causing potholes, random rises, and other deformations in the road surface that can be dangerous for cars traveling at extreme speeds.
"In Saxony-Anhalt there are already speed limits for motorists, because the heat can blow up the concrete pavement," reports German newspaper Die Welt, although we suspect “blow up” might be an issue with Google Translate. Regardless, the danger is real, and Germany isn’t taking any chances.
Saxony-Anhalt is currently limiting speeds to between 100 and 125 kph (62 and 75 mph), while other German states are taking similar precautions. Even tires traveling across road surfaces at these speeds are liable to heat pavement past its breaking point, and the officials are recommending extreme caution over the next few days.
Meteorologists are blaming a massive plume of hot air rising from North Africa for the current heat wave. Although it can be difficult to attribute any single meteorological event to climate change, scientists say these extreme weather phenomena will become more common as the Earth warms due to excessive greenhouse gas emissions, many of which come from burning fossil fuels in vehicles.