What are urban heat islands?

Urban heat islands develop in cities when due to human activities the temperature is much higher than that of the surrounding environment. This is mainly caused by the type of materials used for buildings, roads, pavements – especially concrete and asphalt. Water cannot filter into the ground easily, and dark materials absorb light and then later in the day emit it as heat. Cars, air conditioners, and other equipment also release heat while operating, further increasing the temperature – and pollution.

Green Roof

Green Roof

This temperature difference can be quite high – up to 12C degrees in the night – and it has various effects.

According to the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency  heat island effect not only increases energy costs, but also air pollution grows, and in the summer heat-related illnesses and deaths are more frequent and also water quality can suffer.

Some of the solutions for easing the problem include adding more parks and green surfaces, as well as green roofs [rooftop gardens]. Buildings could be painted with lighter colours and pavements can also be built in a more efficient way, for example by using alternative materials [1].

Hence, there are ways to reduce the urban heat island effect but it cannot be totally eliminated. While many believe that it’s also driving climate change, it significantly affects the lives of the residents – both financially and personally.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Photo: sookie / Wikimedia

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