Taking Our Temperature
Things Are Heating Up!
Global warming means more than just summer heat waves. Buildings and roads warm up quickly and hold heat for a long time. So rising temperatures turn cities and towns into real "hot spots." How does that affect our health?
|•||1980: Severe summer heat killed some 1,250 people in the US.|
|•||1995: More than 700 people perished during a Chicago heat wave.|
The problem afflicts other nations too. Heat waves in London can mean 15 percent more deaths than usual during summertime.
|•||1998 (an El Niño year): A heat wave in India lasted 27 days, killing 1,300 people.
Heat waves can turn summers into bummers. Each day seems hotter than the day before, and we begin to wonder whether it will ever cool off. With global warming, we'll be sweating through more and more hot times.
Heat waves can hit almost anywhere, but they're particularly severe in and around cities. That's no accident. Consider the key ingredients of cities and towns. There are buildings and more buildings, roads and more roads, sidewalks and more sidewalks.
Now think about the amount of asphalt, brick, concrete, and stone used to construct all those buildings, roads, and sidewalks. These materials are heavy and dense. So they heat up quickly—and cool down slowly. As a result, urban areas turn into "heat islands" that are far warmer than fields or forests would be, even in the same location. This is called the urban heat island effect.
Temperatures soar in city centers, where buildings and roads retain heat. Creating parks, planting trees, and painting roofs white can help cool things down.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency
HOT SPOTS AND HEALTH RISKS
Between global warming and the urban island heat effect, cities are truly becoming the hot spots they've always claimed to be. But this kind of heat isn't so hot. It can ruin your day, your week, your vacation—or your health.