A report done by Climate Central shows just how hot major cities can become in comparison to their neighboring suburbs. Cities become hotter when materials that absorb heat such as asphalt and concrete replaces trees and grass, which help keep areas naturally cool. This effect has earned them the nickname “heat islands.” But Climate Central says that these urbanizations coupled with global warming could raise the temperatures to levels that threaten human health and strain resources.
Their research indicates that cities have been on a warming trend since the 1970s, but cities have been getting even hotter lately. In the study of 60 of the country’s hottest cities, Las Vegas, Albuquerque, Denver, Portland, Louisville, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Columbus, Minneapolis and Seattle ranked as those with the most intense “heat islands” over the past 10 years. Only three of the cities studied didn’t have measurable heat island effects. In those 57 cities that did, there were sometimes differences in heat as high as 27 degrees between the suburbs and and city itself. The average for the hottest single day was a 17.5 degree difference.
An interesting result of their study is that 41 out of 60 cities showed that urbanization and climate change are increasing summer heat in cities faster than climate change is affecting the region. On top of that, 45 cities showed evidence of warming faster than any rural areas nearby. The study also mentions that more heat increases air pollution. They discovered that in the cities with available data (51), all of them showed statistically significant correlations to high summer temperatures and poor air quality. The report explains that urbanization is increasing temperatures as well as the man-made global warming.
Though this sounds pretty terrifying and that moving into a city seems like moving into an oven with a closing door, there are some things that can be done. It’ll take the work of city planners, but if they incorporate more park space with grass, trees and general greenery, as well as installing white roofs, these effects can be lessened. However, the gas emissions still remain a problem that could still raise heat levels even if these other preventative measures are taken.
How does your city rank?