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What is the Heat Island effect or Urban Heat Island?

What is the Heat Island Effect?

Part One of the “What is?” series discusses the Heat Island effect, what it means to people living in urban areas and how it can be mitigated.

Classically the heat island effect has a long history in climate change denialists narrative in that the original temperature increases that were utilised to imply global warming were later found to be false readings as the thermometers were placed in large cities and thus impacted by the now famous heat island effect. In a way these confirmations of inaccurate recordings granted denialists a much needed confirmation which further fueled their mistrust of climate science. Thus even when temperature recordings were rectified and confirmed at facilities around the world science was unable to erode this mistrust.

Despite this, the heat island effect is still relevant as a physics concept since large masses of tarmac, concrete and brick continue to be added to ever swelling urban centers. These large masses become thermo stores which radiate  heat back into the city after the sun goes down, this in turn compels the citizens in these centers to electrically alter their domestic environment for comfort (air conditioners) and therefore drive up greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to this it is also implied to create generally poor living conditions which drive ill health although the effects are implied and not directly correlated.

If unchecked climate change is implied to increase global temperature increase by just 2 degrees which would exacerbate and already difficult situation. Thus future town or urban design needs to take into account public open spaces with plentiful vegetation and enforce/create legislation that takes cooling concepts (reflective paint, efficient cooling, garden roofs) into account.

You can read more on the heat island effect on Wikipedia on National Geographic or EPA. This topic is for research purposes. Our next topic is Ocean Acidification.


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