Try walking outside on a midsummer day in New York City. You’re sweating profusely. You can smell the rotting rubbish on the side of the road. The sunlight and heat seem to reflect off the steaming pavement, so hot to the touch it burns skin.
This is an example of the urban heat island effect — a well-known phenomenon in which urban landscapes, particularly those without large trees or shade, tend to amplify and reflect heat, causing temperatures to rise by 8 degrees or more. It can cause health problems in any city, leaving people with fatal heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
A learn The study, released Wednesday by Climate Central, a nonprofit research organization, analyzed the urban heat island index of 18,945 census tracts in 44 major U.S. cities, home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s population, and broke down the data by neighborhood to create “heat maps.” of the cities involved to show. This is not just research, but potentially a tool that cities could use to identify environmental inequalities and make targeted investments to address them.
In particular, neighborhoods in major cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Miami have been subject to the worst of the urban heat island effect. In total, there is a risk in nine cities that more than a million people will have to endure another eight degrees Celsius due to the heat island effect; In all 44 cities surveyed, there are 41 million.
Peter Girard, vice president of communications at Climate Central, says the “heat maps” should be used as a tool for finding solutions. There are simple solutions: more trees and vegetation, lighter paint on roofs, roof gardens and other measures can reduce the urban heat island effect and make cities more tolerable and pedestrian-friendly.
This study follows the hottest June as well as the hottest days and weeks in recorded history, with deadly heat domes stagnating in much of the world, including the US Southwest. Cities like Phoenix are currently experiencing temperatures in excess of 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and so is the heat kill people.
Although the study doesn’t specifically address the long-term effects of race and class discrimination on the urban heat island effect, Girard says it’s an important part of the discussion.
“The trendiest places in these cities … are very, very commonly associated with low-income black and brown communities — people with social vulnerabilities,” Girard said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agencyhistorical redlining is now associated with urban heat islands. To reduce inequalities it could mean investing in green space, creating more shade and using ‘cool pavement’, a technology being piloted from the city of Phoenix, Arizona.
And there’s one big thing people can do to reduce the heat island effect, Girard said. “The only real solution is to reduce global warming altogether.”
This article originally appeared in grista non-profit, independent media organization dedicated to telling stories about climate solutions and a just future.