Thursday, May 29, 2014

How Extreme Heat Could Lead to More Oil Rail Car Derailments

Sun on rail-road track (Credit: Shutterstock) Click to enlarge.
Fossil fuel transportation by rail, already beleaguered by a series of disasters, could actually see things get worse thanks to the very climate change it’s helping to drive: as temperatures increase, rail tracks are more likely to warp, leading to more derailments.

While the storms and floods and such that come with climate change threaten the United States’ infrastructure in a variety of ways, bouts of extreme heat in particular can cause the metal rails in train tracks to bend and buckle, according to a new report from Climate Central. Experts refer to them as “sun kinks,” and they occur when the heat causes the metal to expand sufficiently that the structure of the tracks can’t take it, and the rails warp.  It’s a phenomenon that’s caused an estimated 2,100 train derailments in the country over the last forty years, averaging about 50 derailments annually.

In fact, with 2012 delivering the hottest year the continental U.S. has ever seen, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a safety advisory on sun kinks specifically, and pointed to four major train derailments caused by sun kinks in just a two week span.

How Extreme Heat Could Lead to More Oil Rail Car Derailments

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