Heat islands are metropolitan regions that are substantially warmer than the nearby areas with fewer or no industrial developments. This means a large town may have a higher average temperature than a closely neighboring village. This is because the use of heat-producing components like HVAC systems in developed areas stimulates the temperature. Heat Islands also worsen the effects of climate change, triggering more extreme weather conditions like heat waves and droughts which bring with them other collateral damage. All of this reduces the quality of life for urban dwellers and aggravates the effects of climate change in the region. According to World Bank estimates, there will be 6 billion urban dwellers worldwide, a 1.5-fold increase, by 2045. With the rate at which people living in towns and cities is rising, issues like urban heat islands will only worsen without mitigating measures. Additionally, the consequences of warming brought on by urban heat islands may also impact the economy. According to experts, the predicted economic losses in major cities may face a spike by more than two times.
What Causes Urban Heat Islands
- The use of highly heat-conductive products such as air conditioners, automobiles, and industrial activities in metropolitan areas results in a strong absorption of solar radiation. It blocks the escape of atmospheric pollution which automatically increases the temperature of the surroundings.
- The absence of flora and lush greenery in cities prevents the temperature from falling as a result of constant evaporation from plants. The lack of trees also robs urban centers of the pleasure of enjoying protective shades, which results in warming at a higher rate.
- The unsustainable structures of residential and commercial buildings in cities absorb heat and keep out the wind. It prevents the air currents from cooling the environment.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Heat Island Impacts
Below are five simple but impactful ways to reduce the heat island impact and increase resistance to heat waves.
- Request cities and states to increase the number of trees
The more trees we plant, the greater the shade coverage. It is a great strategy to scatter solar radiation and reduce the urban heat island effect. Beyond shade and cooling the environment, trees also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen for breathing.
- Set up green roofs
A fantastic, long-lasting solution for lessening the effects of urban heat islands is installing green roofs. The method of "green roofing" involves growing plants and/or grass on roofs, mimicking garden roofs. Plants atop roofs act as excellent insulators, which help in cutting down heat levels during the summer season. As the roof plants generate fresh air and capture carbon dioxide, the air quality also improves.
- Choose energy-efficient appliances
Energy-efficient home furnishings and appliances help ease the strain on electricity consumption. It lessens the heat release and also facilitates a more dependable neighborhood electricity supply. Always look out for the ENERGY STAR label on the products to make the most energy-efficient choice.
- Natural ventilation
Make use of home fenestration to let the breeze in. Allowing cool air to enter our homes can help expel heat trapped indoors. Cooling the indoors with natural fresh air will not only reduce heat island impact but also lower household energy bills.
- Watch out for yourself & loved ones
Heat waves can put lives at risk, especially for the old, the sick, and children. Take care of yourself and also keep an eye on your friends and family to make sure they are not vulnerable to heat-related diseases and fatalities. Along with that, spread awareness about the impacts of heat islands and encourage them to take steps.