Too Sunny in Philadelphia? Satellites Zero In on Dangerous Urban Heat Islands

By District Energy posted 07-24-2017 11:46


Annie Sneed, Scientific American
July 19, 2017


Satellite and socioeconomic data can pinpoint which of a city’s neighborhoods are most at risk during heat waves.

Cities around the world are getting hotter as the planet warms, and the consequences can be deadly. Researchers have linked heat waves like the one that hit Russia in 2010—killing 55,000 people—to climate change. And even without global warming, cities tend to bake when the weather gets warm. Surfaces such as asphalt roads and concrete buildings absorb and then radiate a lot of solar energy, which can leave urban areas 6 to 8 degrees Celsius warmer than rural regions.

Although some people can just crank up the air-conditioning amid increasingly brutal heat, many cannot. Urban decision makers need to know where to focus resources as they plan their adaptation strategies, potentially as a matter of life and death. But how can they pinpoint the most vulnerable populations? In a recent study researchers answered this question for Philadelphia by mapping the places where residents are most at risk.

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