Severe US Weather, Yellowstone Flooding and Heat Warnings: Live Updates


Heat already kills more Americans than any other weather-related disaster, according to the National Weather Service — and climate change is making these extreme events even more dangerous.

The record-breaking Northwest heat wave in June, which scientists say would have been “virtually impossible” without human-caused climate change, for example, killed hundreds of people in Oregon, Washington and La British Columbia. When Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana earlier this month, a heat wave exacerbated the effects of the storm.

The aggravating consequences of oppressive heat are not found in the same way in all communities. A recent study from the University of California, San Diego found that low-income neighborhoods and communities with large black, Hispanic, and Asian populations experience significantly more heat than wealthier, predominantly white neighborhoods.

It mirrors earlier research that traces the legacy of neighborhood redlining, the government-sanctioned effort in the 1930s to segregate people of color by denying them housing loans and insurance. While redlining was banned in the late 1960s, vestiges of the discriminatory practice are still apparent.

The research analyzed 108 cities in the United States and found that 94% of historically delineated neighborhoods are disproportionately hotter than other neighborhoods in the same city.

According to the study, neighborhoods outlined in red typically suffer the most from the urban heat island effect, in which some urban areas can be up to 20 degrees warmer than neighborhoods a few blocks away. Areas with lots of asphalt, buildings, and highways absorb more solar heat than areas with parks, rivers, and tree-lined streets.

Vivek Shandas, lead author of the redlining study and professor of climate adaptation and urban policy at Portland State University, said that in addition to historic planning policies, the materials used to construct buildings play also a huge role in amplifying the more severe effects of extreme heat. , especially in low-income apartment complexes.

“What we end up seeing, as these higher density buildings are made of materials that are often able to support the heavier load of the multiple stories, is that they are made of concrete and steel, which amplifies the heat,” Shandas previously said. CNN. “So not only do we have historical planning policies that create inequitable heat distribution, but we also find that the types of buildings that go into historically derelict neighborhoods are those types of buildings that trap solar radiation from the sun and then amplify it.”

The effect is startling on Manhattan’s Central Park boardwalk in East Harlem, says Sonal Jessel, policy director of the Harlem-based nonprofit WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

The trees that dot the wealthy, predominantly white Upper East Side neighborhood are starting to disappear, Jessel says. By contrast, East Harlem, a diverse and historically marginalized neighborhood, is surrounded by highways and streets, has less tree cover, and more industry.

“Ultimately, I describe extreme heat as such a risk multiplier,” Jessel told CNN. “It’s not at all a problem that exists in a vacuum, and low-income communities or communities of color bear the brunt of all these different hardships.”

Portland, Oregon and Seattle, two major cities that were scorched by the June heatwave, rank first and third respectively among cities with the highest proportion of households without air conditioning, according to a US Census Bureau survey of 25 major metropolitan areas. . Experts say those least likely to have air conditioning are those who will endure the worst heat – historically underserved communities.

“And unfortunately, we’re not well prepared, generally in the Pacific Northwest, for the heat,” Shandas said. “That’s where the human side comes in, if people recognize that they are actually experiencing some level of heat stress and it might be an unfamiliar experience for them.”

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta contributed to this article.

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