Extreme heat is currently hitting parts of the US, Europe, and Asia. A Virginia Tech expert explains what made this one of the hottest summers on record.
“While heat waves are part of the natural change in weather patterns we experience, record-breaking temperatures reflect some of the most direct effects of global climate change,” said Theodore Lim, assistant professor of planning and urban affairs at Virginia Tech. “Increased greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of extremely high temperatures.”
Lim also pointed out the “Urban Heat Island Effect”—a phenomenon where cities experience warmer temperatures than surrounding rural areas. “This is because cities have less vegetation and more heat-retaining materials and infrastructure,” Lim explained. “At night, man-made materials take longer to cool down, so after many days of high daytime temperatures, it can be dangerously hot in cities.”
Cities all over the world are feeling the effects of this brutal heat because the temperature is unevenly distributed. “Temperatures in the hottest areas of cities—where there is less vegetation and heat-holding hard surfaces—can be 15 degrees warmer than other parts of the city,” Lim said.
His research on urban heat mapping reveals that there is also an impact on society. “Unfortunately, these areas are often spatially associated with neighborhoods that experience many other stressors, such as poverty, housing/food insecurity, and gun violence,” Lim said. “Low-income residents of cities and people of color have higher exposure to extreme heat risks.”
Lim said that one way to solve the problem is to have plans in cities to deal with heat waves.
“In the long run more and more cities are planning for changes in the built and natural environment to respond to rising temperatures,” said Lim. “It should be treated like any other weather-related disaster.”
These plans may include:
- Increase and preserve tree canopy cover
- Build shade structures
- Removal of impervious surfaces
- Use of “cold pavements”
- Increase native plants
Lim says those most vulnerable to the risk of extreme heat must have a voice in shaping their communities’ response to rising temperatures. “To ensure that interventions really meet the needs of the community and are available to the community, real engagement with community members is needed.”
Lim emphasized that during the heat, the most important thing to do is to put emergency protocols in place. This includes public service announcements, cooling centers, and travel options. “It is important that those most vulnerable, such as the homeless and homeless, have access to resources that protect them from the heat.”
Solutions must not only come from city government officials, but also include input from key community stakeholders such as nonprofit organizations, faith communities, public school systems, and neighborhood groups. “Each of these partners may have slightly different ideas about what needs to be done to increase the ability to deal with rising temperatures,” Lim said. “Building collaborations between these stakeholders will help create solutions that are ultimately implemented most effectively for specific communities.”
Provided by Virginia Tech
Citation: Cities need plans for extreme heat, expert says, as heat waves spread across globe (2023, July 20) retrieved July 20, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-cities-extreme-expert-globe.html
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