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Extreme Heat Is Deadlier Than Hurricanes, Floods and Tornadoes Combined

Summary

Esteban Chavez died from heatstroke in Pasadena, California during an intense heat wave in 2022. Heat-related illnesses and fatalities have been going up since the 1980s due to an increase in Earth's temperatures and it is estimated that 1,300 people die in the US every year from exposure to extreme heat. This phenomenon is happening all over the world and disproportionately affects people in cities, who are more exposed to the heat island effect. This is worse in areas with a history of redlining, where green spaces are lacking and people can't afford central air-conditioning. Researchers are taking a citizen science approach to understand how people perceive and respond to extreme heat events and to find ways to mitigate the negative effects on vulnerable urban communities.

Q&As

How many people in the U.S. die every year from exposure to extreme heat?
Approximately 1,300 people die in the U.S. every year from exposure to extreme heat, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

What are the consequences of extreme heat exposure?
Exposure to extreme heat can damage the central nervous system, the brain and other vital organs, and the effects can set in with terrifying speed, resulting in heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heatstroke. It also exacerbates existing medical conditions such as hypertension and heart disease and is especially perilous for people who suffer from chronic diseases.

What is the heat island effect?
The heat island effect is when cities tend to have a high density of buildings, paved roads and parking lots—all of which absorb and retain heat. Green spaces such as parks and golf courses, in contrast, reduce heat levels in neighborhoods by lowering surface and air temperatures through evapotranspiration.

How can we lessen the negative effects of extreme heat events on historically vulnerable urban communities?
We can lessen the negative effects of extreme heat events on historically vulnerable urban communities by using an integrative citizen science approach, giving us an excellent opportunity to learn from members of communities experiencing some of the worst effects. This approach includes distributing air monitors, Internet hotspots and cell phones to community members who elected to participate in the study, and pushing messages to study participants via an app that merges weather data, risk communication and behavioral health information.

What is the integrative citizen science approach employed to assess people's responses to weather forecasts and heat events in Baltimore?
The integrative citizen science approach employed to assess people's responses to weather forecasts and heat events in Baltimore involves distributing air monitors, Internet hotspots and cell phones to community members who elected to participate in the study, and pushing messages to study participants via an app that merges weather data, risk communication and behavioral health information. The app also collects behavioral responses to extreme heat alerts.

AI Comments

👍 This article provides an incredibly detailed look at the dangers of extreme heat and how to mitigate its effects. It is an important reminder of how we must work to protect communities that are most vulnerable to it.

👎 This article is too long-winded and could have easily been condensed. The author goes on too many tangents that are not relevant to the main discussion.

AI Discussion

Me: It discusses the deadly effects of extreme heat and how climate change is making it worse. It also talks about how vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by the heat, due to discriminatory urban planning policies.

Friend: Wow, that's really concerning. It's clear that we need to do something about climate change to reduce the impacts of extreme heat.

Me: Absolutely. We also need to ensure that vulnerable populations are given the resources they need to stay safe during extreme heat events, such as access to cooling centers and air-conditioning. Additionally, better risk communication is needed to help people understand the dangers of extreme heat and how to protect themselves.

Action items

Technical terms

Heat Wave
A period of abnormally hot weather lasting several days.
Heat Exhaustion
A condition caused by the body overheating, usually due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing, and a rapid heart rate.
Heatstroke
A medical emergency caused by the body overheating, usually due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.
Heat Index
A measure that factors in relative humidity to estimate how a given day's temperature actually feels to the human body.
Redlining
The assignment of grades to residential areas based on their racial composition; the lower-graded neighborhoods were less likely to receive investments, and people living in them had a harder time obtaining loans.
Heat Island Effect
The phenomenon of cities having higher nighttime and mean temperatures compared with areas that have a lot of green space.
Intraurban Heat Islands
Areas within cities that tend to have the least green space and experience the most intense heat.
Climate Change
The long-term change in the Earth's climate, caused by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

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