South Australia is notoriously hot but some parts of Adelaide are sweltering more than ever. Not surprisingly, these are the suburbs that contain “urban heat islands” leading to higher than average temperatures compared to neighbouring suburbs. You may think what difference does a few degrees make? Well, as it turns out, a lot – with these suburbs often coinciding with higher levels of vulnerability, including illness and death, especially amongst the elderly.

Former aged care worker Wendy Farmilo, 75, lives in Tranmere near Campbelltown in suburban Adelaide — an area overrun with urban heat islands. Ms Farmilo said because of cooling measures she has put in place she has managed to avoid the full brunt of the weather but is urging others to take precautions. “Older people do not drink enough water, they get dehydrated… they feel if they drink too much they might have a bladder problem,” she said.

According to a report prepared by consultancy firm Edge South Australia, nearly all of the heat islands in Ms Farmilo’s council are also home to society’s most vulnerable. “Urban heat is one of the biggest killers of people in our community, more so than any other natural hazard,” Edge SA General Manager Dr Mark Siebentritt said. “One of the big strategies we can use to tackle that is the planting of more trees. Councils right around South Australia are planting more trees than ever before.”

Landscape Architect and green space advocate Daniel Bennett said boosting tree cover would reduce heat, as well as improving “mental and physical wellbeing. Increasing the city’s connected tree canopy is one way to achieve a reduction in local temperatures as well as reducing the urban heat island effect.”

One thing is clear – as temperatures continue to soar, urban trees are not just a nice-to-have. They’re literally a matter of life and death.

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-19/urban-heat-islands-impacting-australias-most-vulnerable/11811274