Extreme heat causes train derailment outside San Francisco

Temperatures hit a record daily high in the area, likely causing the tracks to warp

BART says heat played role in train's partial derailment
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Soaring temperatures caused a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train to partially derail after the heat warped the track, the transit agency said.

Temperatures at the Concord Airport, near the spot of the derailment, spiked to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39C) last Tuesday — a record daily high. The train derailed during the evening commute that day.

While the tracks are normally around 115F (46C), the heat pushed the them up to around 140F (60C), a BART spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Two cars partially derailed, and 50 people were evacuated from the train, BART said. One person went to the hospital after complaining about back pain, though no major injuries were reported, they added.

The incident occurred between the Concord and Pleasant Hill stations in Contra Costa County, part of the East Bay Area on a train heading toward San Francisco. Service had resumed on the tracks by later in the week.

The BART spokesperson told the Chronicle that heat derailments are rare, with no other incidents immediately showing up in a search of their archives since 2005.

Many parts of the US were hit with extraordinary heat last week as the US enters another hot summer. Most Americans faced sweltering temperatures, caused in part by a “heat dome” that trapped hot air in a high-pressure bubble over much of the country.

The incident on the BART underscores how some US infrastructure may not be ready for the climate crisis. During last year’s record-breaking and deadly heatwave in the Pacific Northwest, train cables and roads broke as heat pushed well above 105F (41 C).

Extreme heat can also contribute to wildfires, which bring their own infrastructure damage and transportation delays.

Heatwaves are expected to get both more extreme and more frequent as greenhouse gases continue to warm the planet. As the world reaches 2C above pre-20th century temperatures, heatwaves that once occurred every 10 years will now happen almost six times as often and be 2.6 C hotter, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Currently, the world is on track to hit 2.7C of warming by the end of the century, according to the Climate Action Tracker.

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