Study predicts increased exposure to extreme heat in cities

Rising temperatures from climate change and increased urbanization mean city residents will experience more extreme heat in the future, but how much more?

A study co-authored by a University of Guelph researcher projects that more people will be exposed to intense heat due to increased greenhouse gas emissions and urban population growth.

“A major reason that cities are often warmer is the built infrastructure – the paved roads and the building and residential roofs that absorb and emit heat, the tall buildings that retain that heat – those are major factors that make cities hotter than rural areas,” says Prof. Scott Krayenhoff, School of Environmental Sciences, who co-authored the study with researchers at Arizona State University.

The researchers calculated that population-weighted exposure to extreme heat will increase at least 12-fold by the end of this century. As much as two-thirds of the world’s people are projected to be living in cities by mid-century.

Study findings may help planners and policy makers in adapting to climate change and in implementing urban features from street tree-planting to additional cooling centres.