This weekend, parts of Eastern Australia experienced heatwaves so intense that experts called temperatures in some areas life-threatening. Near the capital city of Sydney, temperatures spiked at 117 degrees fahrenheit.

That temperature was so incredibly high that a six mile stretch of asphalt highway literally melted in the sweltering midday sun. Really.

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While the northern hemisphere plunges into the winter months, Australians enjoy their summer, usually at temperatures far below this weekend’s incredibly high numbers. Even amidst a relatively-warm summer in Australia, road-melting temperatures are a rarity to be sure.

As beaches became crowded and motorists were left stranded on an oozing black tar that used to be a road, many were left wondering what may have caused such unusual weather patterns in the generally mild month of January.

Climate scientists in Australia have pointed out that annual average temperatures have risen about 1 degree celsius since 1910, noting that the bulk of this warming occured after 1950. Additionally, a 2016 State of the Climate report released by the Australian government stated that the “duration, frequency and intensity” of extreme heat events had increased across large parts of the country.

In other parts of the world, extreme weather events seem to be following a similar pattern. At the same time that Australia is heating up, parts of the northeastern United States experienced one of the worst winter storms ever and saw temperatures below those on Mars.

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Though melting roads and Mars-like cold seem vastly different, both extreme weather events are exacerbated by the effects of human-caused climate change. The Environmental Defense Fund notes that as global temperatures increase, so too does the intensity of heat waves, droughts, storms, and even snowfall.

Many scientists pointed to this fact after 2017 saw some of the most intense weather-related natural disasters to date. Notably, 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded.

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and taking action on climate-related issues is goal number thirteen. You can take action on this issue here.

If trends of global warming continue, so too could the pattern of extreme weather events that threaten millions of people around the globe. Melting roads could be the least of our problems.


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Temperatures in Australia Are So High That Roads Literally Melted

By Andrew McMaster