Earth Gauge Tip of the Week: Handling Heat Islands

| 7/18/2011 1:56:32 PM

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On hot, sunny days, surface temperatures on roofs and pavement can be from 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the air temperature!  These hot surfaces contribute to "urban heat islands" where temperatures in cities are hotter than surrounding, less developed areas.  The urban heat island effect can be particularly pronounced at night, when city temperatures may be as much as 22 degree Fahrenheit higher than surrounding areas.  Higher temperatures in cities have a number of impacts, including increased energy use for air conditioning, increased emissions of air pollutants and impacts on human health.

Viewer Tip:  Older individuals are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses.  The body's cooling mechanism doesn't work as efficiently as we age and living alone or being confined to a bed can further increase vulnerability.  Keep these tips in mind to help older family members and friends stay healthy:

  • Seek out A/C - A few hours per day in an air-conditioned building can reduce risk of illness.  If you home does not have A/C, visit a senior center, movie theater, library, mall or designated community cooling center.  A fan may provide some relief, but when temperatures reach the high 90's, electric fans do not prevent heat-related illness.
  • Dress the Part - Wear light-weight, loose clothing that is light in color.  Drink plenty of fluids and avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or lots of sugar, which can cause dehydration.
  • Check Up - If you have a family member, friend or neighbor who is at risk, visit them regularly.  If you see signs of heat-related illness - confusion, hot and dry skin, hallucinations, or aggression - seek help immediately.

Learn more at and be sure to visit Earth Gauge for more tips!

Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Heat Island Impacts  and It’s Too Darn Hot – Planning for Excessive Heat Events.

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