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Heat Islands: Why cities get so damn hot in the summer

As the global wave of urbanization continues to spread, several impacts can arise from the increase in paved surfaces.

 

Profile picture for user Martijn.Donkersloot
WeatherPro
29 May 2019

Heat Islands: Why cities get so damn hot in the summer

As the global wave of urbanization continues to spread, several impacts can arise from the increase in paved surfaces.

 

Profile picture for user Martijn.Donkersloot
WeatherPro
29 May 2019
4 min read

Advertorial

Known as the Urban Heat Island Effect, paved surfaces can be between 50-90°F (10-32°C) hotter than the air temperature during the day. Even after sunset, urban areas can be as much as 22°F warmer than surrounding rural areas. 

But heat islands can present more challenges than just sweaty armpits for urban dwellers. Heat islands present a major issue for energy and other utility providers.

With increased temperatures comes an increase in energy demand. For every 1°F in temperature increase between 68-77°F, the demand in energy increases by 1.5%-2%. In extreme heat events, utility companies can institute measures to reduce the energy consumption by instituting rolling blackouts or brownouts to avoid power outages caused by the heat.

As the environment gets warmer during the day and less cooling occurs overnight, overall discomfort can increase. Existing health issues can be exacerbated including respiratory conditions, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat islands can amplify the impact of an ongoing heat wave by trapping heat near the surface. The CDC reports that deaths related to heat exceeds the number of deaths from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined.

Elevated surface temperatures can also impact water quality. If rain falls on a surface with a temperature of 100°F, that water can warm to temperatures as high as 95°F. As this water runs off into the environment it can disrupt ecosystems and potentially kill aquatic life.

Many dread the summer heat because of discomfort, but the potential effects of the heat, especially in urban areas, can reach far beyond this mere discomfort. The Urban Heat Island Effect can affect everyone, both health-wise and financially. While designing structures with different types of materials can help alleviate the issues related to heat islands, they do not completely eradicate them. However, building roads and sidewalks with lighter colored materials and increasing vegetation can help considerably to reduce heat islands in cities around the world.

The WeatherPro mobile app offers interactive graphs and precise data so you can track temperature changes in your city.

About the author

Profile picture for user Martijn.Donkersloot
WeatherPro

At WeatherPro, we believe that good things happen when people step outside and great things happen to those who are prepared. We strive to empower life’s outdoor moments. #stepoutside