People resting in terminal 5 at Heathrow airport, July 26, 2019, when Britain's largest airport apologized after extreme weather conditions across Europe caused cancellations and delays of aircraft.
Steve Parsons | PA Pictures | Getty Images
When a historic heat wave swept Western Europe this week and set record highs well above 100 degrees in places like Paris, Belgium and Germany, both people and infrastructure struggled to keep up.
Friday morning and commuters faced disturbances after extreme hot devastation for the rail network and airports. Widespread delays also continued in Heathrow and Gatwick, Britain's two largest airports, and passengers were stranded.
"It is intense. Climate change makes this extreme heat so much more likely. This is something that could hardly happen if not for climate change," said Karsten Haustein, climate researcher at the University of Oxford, to CNBC.
Engineers this week struggled to repair damaged railway lines when networks slowed trains. High temperatures cause steel tracks to expand and buckle under load, according to UK Network Rail, leading to extensive delays.
In Austria, the national rail service painted parts of the train tracks white to lower temperatures and limit structural damage caused by bending, with similar efforts being made in Switzerland and Germany.
Some railroad commuters in London were stuck on Thursday night as wires in the network were damaged by the heat. High-speed train services between Paris and London also stopped on Friday after a power cable failure at Gare du Nord station.
Throughout Europe, swirling commuters took to Twitter to complain about being stranded on stopped airline services. In one team, 600 passengers were evacuated from a London train line after a damaged airline led to a railroad fire, according to local reports.
"The commuter traffic is poor, the railway infrastructure is poor, they slow down the trains, interrupt the entire network and lead to complete failure of certain connections," Haustein said.
Air conditioners in Europe are also scarce, exacerbating the misery of travelers and people at home. Europe accounts for only 6% of the global share of air conditioning, compared to the United States of 23%, according to a report from the International Energy Agency in 201
"Air conditioning on the trains does not work and you cannot open the windows. Air conditioning is not something here in general, which means people are suffering even more," Haustein said.
Climate scientists warn that an extreme heat wave like this will only become more frequent, and that infrastructure such as roads, homes and railways must change in order to withstand future challenges that the extreme weather offers.
Last year, for example, high temperatures in the UK caused disturbances in a network path that cost £ 40 million ($ 50 million) for operators, Alastair Chisholm, director of policy at the institute, told NBC News.
Climate change is an important driver of extreme heat
The hottest summers in Europe over the past 500 years have all occurred over the past 17 years, researchers say. Climate studies consistently show that heat waves become more common all over the world and hit new temperature records all the time.
The Met Office reports that Britain is now experiencing "higher maximum temperatures and longer hot spells" than it has ever used.
In the summer of 2018, it was the common warmest record for Britain as a whole and the hottest ever for England. The Met Office has shown that man-made climate change made record-breaking UK summer temperatures in 2018 approximately 30 times more likely than it would have been natural, "the office said.
People on the beach during hot summer weather on Brighton Beach in Brighton, UK, 25 July 2019.
Peter Nicholls | Reuters
The British Government's Advisory Committee on Climate Change has also warned that Britain's infrastructure is not prepared for an expected increase in extreme heat events as a result of climate change.
A recent study , which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, showed that the summer heat wave in Europe was made five times more likely to occur in the present climate than it would have been without human-induced global warming.
"This heat wave is so rare that there is not really equipment in place to cope with the extreme heat. There is no sense of pressure than that, "Haustein said.
" But in the future it will be more a question. The more pressing issue will be health, but in terms of infrastructure, for example, the train networks will have to deal with it. "