Poorer Urban Areas Suffer Worse Heat

Citygreen - Poorer urban areas suffer worse heat

Poorer Urban Areas Suffer Worse Heat:

A recent study in New York community districts and United Hospital Fund neighbourhoods shows that there is a higher rate of heat-related mortality in poorer areas.

According to an article in the Harvard Gazette, there were higher heat related deaths in southern and western Bronx, central Brooklyn, northern Manhattan, and the eastern side of midtown.

The poorer residents mainly occupy these smaller heat islands. The study showed a strong correlation between excess deaths and poverty, poor housing quality, hypertension, and impervious land cover.

“It is known that there is an unequal distribution of risk from climate change around the world,” Joyce Klein Rosenthal, an assistance professor of urban design, told the Gazette. “What’s less known is that there is a significant variability of risks from climate change and extreme events within American cities, related to poverty and conditions in the built environment.”

She added that it is very important to recognise that “designers, architects, and urban planners have the capacity and agency to improve urban conditions”. Rosenthal said that by understanding vulnerability within cities, there is a better chance to implement more “effective adaptive strategies with communities”.

Several cities have already started ways to ease the heat for the most vulnerable of residents through “longstanding programs to distribute fans and air-conditioners and open cooling centres on the hottest days”.

“Studies like this provide health outcome-related evidence supporting adaptive interventions. We have health disparities in the spatial distribution of excess mortality of seniors during heat events. The types of characteristics we found to be associated [with that mortality] are within the collective ability of municipalities to intervene,” Rosenthal told the Gazette.

She said that heat, like ground-level ozone, is an environmental stressor, “unevenly distributed in places where there are less trees, less green space, and associated with poorer housing quality”.

According to the study, income levels are associated with surface temperatures. It showed that poorer neighbourhoods are hotter while wealthier neighbourhoods are cooler.

“Urban design strategies can make a difference in reducing urban micro-heat islands,” Rosenthal said.

She added that if the aging population, hotter climate, and lack of affordable housing are not addressed, it may constitute a “perfect storm for future heat wave deaths”.

Rosenthal said the study proves that greening a neighbourhood should be taken seriously. “The disciplines of the built environment – urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design – have the knowledge and responsibility to make a difference.”

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Arizona heat worsened by air conditioners, study says

Arizona heat worsened by air conditioners, study says - monument valley arizona

Arizona heat worsened by air conditioners, study says:

In Arizona, the excess heat from air conditioners turned on during the night is causing an even worse condition in temperature outside.

As reported by Phys.Org, a new study from a team of researchers from the Arizona State University has found that the urban heat island (UHI) effect has been getting worse because of the waste heat from air conditioning systems running at night.

“We found that waste heat from air conditioning systems was maximum during the day but the mean effect was negligible near the surface. However, during the night, heat emitted from air conditioning systems increased the mean air temperature by more than one degree Celcius (almost two degrees Fahrenheit) for some urban locations,” said Francisco Salamanca, a post-doctoral research scientist at the university’s School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

It’s a vicious cycle as the research shows that releasing waste heat increases outdoor temperature and therefore results in the need to increase cooling indoors and increases electricity consumption.

The paper is called “Anthropogenic Heating of the Urban Environment due to Air Conditioning”. It focuses on “the anthropogenic contribution of air conditioning systems on air temperature, and examines the electricity consumption for the rapidly expanding Phoenix metropolitan area, one of the largest metropolitan area in the United States”.

Phoenix is in the semiarid Sonoran desert and its harsh summertime conditions raises the use of air conditioning systems.

“To keep people cool, air conditioning systems can consume more than 50 percent of total electricity during extreme heat and put a strain on electrical grids. Cooling demands for rapidly expanding urban areas like Phoenix are likely to increase considerably during the next several decades. To address future energy needs in a sustainable manner, the researchers determined it was essential to study current AC demand and assess AC waste heat.”

The researchers simulated a 10-day period from July 10 – 19, 2009. They used the “non-hydrostatic version of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model coupled to the Noah land surface model to analyse the contribution of AC systems on air temperature”.

Katharine Gammon from Take Part raises this question: “Does two degrees really make a difference in the environment? Even a small rise in temperature on hot days and nights can have a life-threatening impact on some populations, including the homeless, the elderly, and infants.”

Salamanca said in the report: “An increase of two degrees for the Phoenix metropolitan area represents around 1,200 megawatt-hours of extra electricity consumption each day to maintain our residences cooled in summer.”

“They found that the effect of the AC systems was more important during the night due to the limited depth of the urban boundary layer. The effect is stronger from late afternoon to early morning. A smaller quantity of excess AC systems heat ejected during the night can increase the air temperature more compared to a greater quantity released during the daytime when the hot sun is beating down.”

The research said that to turn this problem around, the waste heat could be “recaptured and used to heat water for homes”. In polluted areas, the research also said “waste heat might have the benefit of reducing the concentration of pollutants near the ground (because heat rises)”.

Salamanca recommends that residents raise their thermostat during the summer to a “tolerable 80 degrees”. “You will save money, you will reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and at the same time, you will reduce the impact of air conditioning systems on the air temperature.”

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