Heatwaves threaten internet access as data centers crash

London, UK - We rely on the internet for everyday life, but it turns out the data centers that form the backbone of the web can't withstand rising temperatures brought about by climate change.

Data centers are also at risk due to climate change cranking up the heat.
Data centers are also at risk due to climate change cranking up the heat.  © Unsplash/Joshua Sortino

Data centers in London went down for a full day on July 19, dropping Google Cloud services to customers from the US to the Pacific, and according to WIRED, it's because the foundation of the internet isn't built to withstand ever hotter temps.

Oracle, another cloud-based service, also went offline due to "unseasonably high temperatures" that pushed cooling units in their London data center past their design limits.

Now, the data centers were planned and built by relying on historical highs, which only ever reached

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The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says there will be at least one year that goes down as the hottest on record between now and 2026, and the rising heat won't stop there.

"For as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise," said WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas.

"And alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise, and our weather will become more extreme."

Keeping data centers cool

Data centers are currently with outdated weather data in mind and rely on air cooling. But future sites could move further north, use weather projections, and switch to liquid cooling.

The tricky part, of course, is that competition for new sites will be fierce, and as long as climate change ramps up, new data centers may soon be outpaced by rising temps.

There's also a low-tech temporary solution: just getting out a hose and spraying down the roof of data centers.

The potential loss of some internet services is yet another domino effect of human-induced climate change.

Cover photo: Unsplash/Joshua Sortino

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