Adaptation in USA: As temperatures rocket, cities fight heat waves

Source(s): Environment & Energy Publishing

By Erika Bolstad

Heat waves may tire all of us out — and not in just New York City. In the coming decades, heat waves will be longer, more frequent and more intense in many parts of the country, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment. This summer alone, extreme heat has killed grape pickers in California fields and hikers in Arizona. At least four people died of heat-related illnesses in El Paso, Texas, where the city saw 16 days in a row of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, the third-longest stretch ever. Phoenix saw its hottest combined June and July on record, with temperatures averaging 96 degrees daily. And higher-than-average temperatures and drought have scorched corn and peanut crops in Tennessee and Georgia.

As they work to adapt to more frequent or intense heat waves, city leaders and emergency responders across the country are trying to figure out not only how to keep people safe, but how to cool their urban cores. Those most at risk in heat waves are often the people who live in cities who already might be more vulnerable: poor people without air conditioning and elderly people or those with health problems exacerbated by heat and poor air quality. A study released this summer by Columbia University found that as many as 3,331 people in New York City alone could die annually from heat waves by the 2080s if no steps are taken to adapt to warming temperatures and reduce emissions (ClimateWire, June 23).

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