Heat island effect can turn deadly in extreme conditions

New York works to counteract health impact of rising temperatures

July 17, 2018 |
Heat island effect can turn deadly in extreme conditions

NASA graphic depict heat islands. Source: NASA  


Of all the impacts of global climate change, it’s extreme heat that kills more Americans each year than any other weather-related event.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that as many as 600 people die from extreme heat in the U.S. every year. The urban heat island effect makes cities significantly warmer than their surrounding suburbs, exurbs, and rural areas, making them potentially deadly for those who lack air conditioning.

A 2016 Columbia University study projected that by 2080 up to 3,300 New Yorkers could die annually from intense heat exacerbated by climate change. The city launched a $106-million “Cool Neighborhoods” plan last year to mitigate the risks of extreme heat. 

The plan includes painting surfaces white, planting more trees, creating green roofs, and building other green infrastructure to cool down several neighborhoods. In addition, the plan includes improving emergency cooling center signage and making those facilities more inviting.


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