Improving Blue and Green Infrastructure to Counteract Increasing Urban Temperatures

by Deniz Korman

Urban areas experience higher temperatures compared to rural areas, and it is likely that this will lead to health risks within urban communities due extreme heat in the future. However, we have the power to minimize this effect by improving the infrastructures of our cities. An effective way to lower urban temperatures is increasing vegetation and water surfaces, which also provides the added benefit of increasing urban biodiversity, and improving air quality. While this known to be a valid strategy, the magnitude of the climate impact that such an improvement will have when applied on a city scale is unknown. Žuvela-Aloise et al. (2016) have modeled the potential of improving green and blue infrastructure within Vienna, and identified the ways in which changes should be applied in order to counteract urban warming as effectively as possible.

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Schneider and Louisville’s Green Initiative

by Vikramaditya Jhunjhunwala

In the spring of 2011, the mayor of Louisville created a commission dedicated to planting more trees. This commission was to be co-chaired by none other than Katy Schneider, former deputy mayor of Louisville and advocate of environmental issues. Madeline Ostrander (2016) outlines Schneider’s efforts in creating a healthier environment for her city, and reminds the people of urban America of the environmental dangers their concrete worlds face in the absence of greenery.

Ostrander recounts that Schneider’s journey began in early 2012 when Schneider approached Brian Stone, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, to find out the extent of temperature changes in Louisville. Stone proceeded to reveal that Louisville’s temperature had increased by about 1.7 degrees every decade since 1960. Stone also noticed that urban areas were heating more than rural areas. He discovered that this situation was primarily caused by what meteorologists call the urban heat-island effect whereby dark and paved surfaces absorb solar radiation consequently causing the air temperature to rise. Continue reading

Combination of Heatwaves and Drought May Convert Carbon Sinks into Carbon Sources

by Caroline Hays

Droughts and heatwaves are becoming more common place and more severe. They impact the carbon and water cycles in terrestrial ecosystems, which affect the carbon sequestration capability of terrestrial ecosystems. As these extreme climate events become more common, their effects, both separately and together, on the atmospheric carbon balance will be important for accurately projecting global warming’s progression. Yuan et al. (2016) examined the effects of a heatwave and drought in Southern China in the summer of 2013. They found that this drought and heatwave were the most severe experienced in the last 113 years. These events significantly altered the carbon cycle in the region, decreasing carbon uptake enough to convert the region from its historical role as a carbon sink to a carbon source of nearly the same size during July and August of 2013. Continue reading

Occupational Health Hazards and Consequent Economic Losses Due to Workplace Heat Exposure

by Amelia Hamiter

Kjellstrom et al. (2015) study how warming temperatures due to climate change may create an occupational health hazard in tropical and subtropical countries that have a significant workforce employed in jobs in hot environments, such as physical jobs which must be done outdoors or in indoor spaces such as some factories that lack efficient cooling systems. (Air conditioning in urban areas is contested, since on a large urban scale it can increase heating of outdoor air, and because of its electricity demands. Thus indoor workplaces in some regions lack sustainable temperature control systems.) This problem is exacerbated by the high humidity of these countries, which reduces the effectiveness of sweating in cooling the body. To avoid excessive heat stress, workers must not work during the hottest hours of the day, which increase in the hottest days of the year. Many of the countries affected by this are low- to middle-income, and this issue can have an impact on their respective gross domestic products (GDPs). Preventative actions include development of coolant systems where possible as well as occupational health advisories, adjusted work hours, and other changes such as increased access to drinking water and education about symptoms of heat strain and heat stroke in the workplace. However, these strategies are limited, and also hold little hope for cutting economic losses. Global action against climate change is the most effective action to take against this situation. Continue reading

Heat Waves in the United States: Definitions, Patterns, and Trends

by Tim Storer

Heat waves have impacts on a variety of industries and demographics throughout the world, and they are much scientific interest. In the United States, research has been done to study the trends in heat wave intensity and frequency. Unfortunately for the researchers, there have traditionally been many varying definitions of “heat waves,” in previous research, and additional work was required to standardize the data so that it could be analyzed for trends. The varying definitions are due to a multitude of interested parties, such as health researchers measuring heat waves that break a dangerous threshold, versus climate scientists tracking temperatures that are in high percentiles. Having compiled all the different definitions, the recent research showed mostly positive trends in the number of heat wave days per year in most of the United States, with the strongest increases in the Southeast and Great Plains regions (Smith et al. 2013). This approach is especially powerful, because by combining many different measures of heat waves, the study is likely to eliminate oversight that any individual measure may have. Continue reading