Urban Canopy

Themes in Urban Heat To Explore

Urban heat is a fascinating topic to explore as a data scientist, content creator, designer, story-teller, or change-maker. There are many angles you can take and your stories can be backed up by stunning bright thermal images and interesting data. Here are the main themes to explore about how extreme urban heat harms us. 

CO2 emissions from high AC use - Summer CO2 emissions in California jump up to twelve-fold on hot days when AC use is high. Increasing levels of urban heat, population, and urbanization will increase grid-produced CO2 emissions. See the data on California ISO and on Energy Lollipop.

Hospital admissions - Heat waves increase the load on hospitals. The California heat wave in 2006 caused 16,166 excess emergency department visits and cost hospitals $5.4 billion dollars. Reference  + learn more.

GDP - Urban heat amplifies the economic costs of climate change by three fold, and is projected to reduce GPD by as much as 10.9 percent in some cities. Reference + learn more.

Violence & police - Violent crime increases proportionally to air temperature, adding to police budgets and increasing the likelihood of police violence incidents. Reference + learn more.

Racial justice - People of color and low income populations are effected disproportionately by urban heat. Over 700 people died in the 1995 Chicago heat wave, most of whom where African Americans. Reference + learn more.

Property values - Greenery increases property values. A study on Riverside County, California found that proximity to trees resulted in an increase of $16 million in total land value to the county. Tree cover increased property prices by 7 percent in residential areas and 18 percent for building lots. Reference + learn more.

Worker productivity - Heat reduces human productivity. A study on Indian garment workers showed worker productivity dropped 4 percent for every degree over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Reference + learn more.

Electricity cost - The cost of electricity to run  government buildings is three times higher in summer than in spring, and will continue to increase with rising electricity prices and warmer temperatures. The US loses $680 billion dollars a year to wasted electricity. Reference + learn more.

Grid upgrades - Increased load on the electricity grid, especially in summer, is accelerating the need for expensive grid upgrades. Aging grids drive $51B in annual utility distribution spending. US power grid outages have risen by 285% since records on blackouts began in 1984. Reference + learn more. 

Sewer system - Lack of green infrastructure such as trees, parks, and green roofs increases rainfall runoff. This runoff pollutes waterways and causes excess load on the sewerage system. New York City's estimates to comply with sewer overflow orders will be more than $2 billion. Reference + learn more.

Air pollution - Heat increases the chemical reactions that create smog. In 2002, 288 million Americans were exposed to high ozone smog, which hastened death for 795 people, caused 4,150 hospitalizations, and cost $6.5 billion. Reference + learn more.

Vulnerable populations - The elderly, pregnant, and young are vulnerable to extreme heat. People over 65 make up most of the heat-related hospital visits and fatalities that occur during heat waves. Reference + learn more.