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Extreme Heat Hits Northern Cities Too

Posted by karen-smith-murphy on May 9, 2014

Several recent reports have shed light on the many ways climate change is affecting our way of life, and these reports have people talking about strategies for dealing with extreme heat and the resulting health problems.  We expect extreme heat events down in Atlanta, GA or Los Angeles, CA.  But we’re also hearing of concerns over the urban heat island effect and extreme heat in northern cities like Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, IL.

Atlanta is better able to handle these extreme heat events, with most buildings and homes equipped with air conditioning units.  But cities further north may not have the cooling infrastructure to handle more extreme heat waves.  Schools (which don’t have air conditioning) are shut down and children stay home.  People living on the top floors of un-air conditioned buildings are in greater danger of illness or even death from this extreme heat.

Extreme heat is also affecting places like London, England, and studies tell us that unless something’s done to mitigate the impact of climate change, mortality will increase significantly.   London could be looking at 800 deaths per year by 2050.  Another study tells us that London could see their heat-related mortality rate jump 257% by 2050 unless steps are taken to address the effects of extreme urban heat.

The good news is that more people are beginning to understand that – even in cooler climates such as London –cool roofs can bring down the temperature in buildings, increasing comfort and reducing the chance of heat-related illness and death.  It also brings down energy consumption, which means less carbon in our atmosphere.

You can learn more about extreme heat around the United States, by visiting NOAA’s extreme heat tracking site HERE.

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Karen Smith-Murphy