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Will our roads really melt in this extreme heat?

By Tom Gibson | July 19, 2022

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The short answer is, yes – they will.

Will our roads really melt in this extreme heat?

95% of our roads are at risk of softening and melting as Britain battles against the current heatwave, with temperatures today expected to reach 40C in some areas of the country.

When air temperatures are as ‘low’ as 25C, tarmac hits around 51C and it’s at this temperature that it begins to soften.

And so with temperatures easily outdoing 25C for the vast majority of us today, it’s easy to see why there is concern about severe damage to the UK’s infrastructure.

For this reason, don’t be surprised to see gritters on the road.

Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association, said: “Drivers may be bemused to see the gritters out in the summer when they are usually spreading grit and salt during the winter.

“However, this is effective standard practice for keeping a road surface safe during extreme prolonged hot temperatures.”

“Asphalt is a bit like chocolate – it melts and softens when it’s hot and goes hard and brittle when it’s cold – it doesn’t maintain the same strength all year round.”

On around 5% of our roads, special polymers have been used in the tarmac that raises the asphalt road surface softening point to around 80C, preventing it from softening under extreme hot weather.

It’s for reasons like this that the roads in some of our favourite holiday destinations don’t melt but then they’re not designed to cope with the amount of rain fall that ours can, either.

You'll also find that roads in places like Spain, Greece and Cyprus would crack in the colder climates that we experience here.

Most common reasons why cars breakdown in the UK 

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