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Florida Ice Effect: A danger on UK roads as rain returns

Florida Ice Effect is a relatively uncommon phenomenon, at least here in the UK, but it is something to watch out for on the roads in the next couple of days. 

Over the last few weeks, the UK has enjoyed exceptional weather. The heat has been quite intense for us Brits, who are perfectly happy with anything 15C and up, generally speaking.

The most recent heatwave followed up a previous one in July. The latter one was longer, but less intense than the first one, but the continued dry period has meant the ground is in a poor condition. (For sure, there has been tendencies towards hyperbole in recent weeks, but it is also true that areas of the UK were declared to be in drought recently.) This poor condition extends from the earth itself to the asphalt on the roads. 

If you were to go riding on un-prepped dirt tracks in recent weeks, you would have found difficult, rocky, slippery conditions. Now that rain is returning to the UK – albeit in relatively small quantities in many places – a similarly low-grip condition is to be expected on the paved roads. 

This is because of what is known as the Florida Ice Effect. This is where the first rains after an intense dry period cause moisture to get into the asphalt on the roads, and bring all of the oils, dust and such to the surface, creating very slippery conditions. 

When the 2018 MotoGP British Grand Prix was cancelled at Silverstone, it was because of the surface not allowing the water to drain through it, so it just sat on top.

In the case of the Florida Ice Effect (FIE), the reality is somewhat comparable, but opposite, because you have oils from the asphalt interacting with rain water that drains through the top, and then rising back to the surface and significantly reducing grip. In addition to the asphalt oils, in FIE the water is also interacting with dust and other dirt that sits in asphalt, according to a Facebook post by Guernsey Police.

So, when you’re off out for a ride in the next few days, it is worth taking a little extra caution with you if you come across wet roads, or there is some sudden rain.

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