Urban Heat Islands – Causes, Effects, and Solutions

urban heat island is warmer cities and hotter climate

INTRODUCTION

Urban Heat Island: It is defined as the hotter or warmer cities/urban areas as compared to nearby rural areas. Anthropogenic activities are the reason for the urban heat island effect. Industrialization, urbanization, deforestation, and land-use changes are few examples.

Urban Heat Island Effect: Urban Heat Island effect is more apparent during the winter and summer seasons. When there is no wind the nights become warmer. The air temperature of urban areas differs from surrounding rural areas.

CAUSES OF URBAN HEAT ISLANDS

The main causes of urban heat islands are mentioned below.

1. Climate Change: Human-induced climate change is one of the causes for urban heat islands. The cities are getting warmer with each passing day.

2. Open Dumping Sites: The increasing population is the reason for huge piles of the untreated waste generation that produce waste heat.

3. Fossil Fuel Combustion: The burning of fossil fuels in urban transportation and coal power plants releases air pollutants and toxic chemicals that absorb solar radiation in the atmosphere and increase surface temperature.

4. Heat from Home Appliances: The heat being released from home appliances such as air conditioners is adding a heating effect.

5. Infrastructure Development: There is less evapotranspiration due to land-use changes by infrastructure development including impermeable road surfaces

6. Less to no Vegetation: Less vegetation means more carbon in the air that will ultimately increase heat in the air causing global warming.

7. Dark Surfaces: Dark surfaces absorb more heat in comparison to light surfaces. The concrete material used in buildings also causes the urban heat islands effect.

EFFECTS OF URBAN HEAT ISLANDS

Urban heat islands show impacts on animals, humans, climate, weather patterns, and water bodies.

1. High Surface or Air Temperature: Urban heat island effect is responsible for the extreme air temperature in the cities.

2. Air Pollution: Urban heat island impacts weather and climate of the region and increases air pollution by altering wind patterns.

3. Seasonal Variations: One of the main effects of urban heat islands is seasonal variations. The growing season increases in duration and other seasons shorten. Also check out: Heatwaves in Pakistan And India – Causes, Effects, Solutions

4. Hot Water Bodies: The water bodies are hotter due to increased surface temperature and industrial drainages. The warmer water bodies disturb marine and freshwater biodiversity. For more information, please read: Heatwaves Are Killing Off Sea Life In Billions – Destroying The Ecosystem

5. Health Problems: Urban heat island has severe impacts on human health. There are heat deaths, respiratory problems, and allergies.

6. Energy Consumption: Due to the urban heat island effect, energy consumption increases, and the release of toxins and air pollutants follows its cycle.

7. Abundance of Insects: Ecotherms such as insects increases in numbers due to urban heat island. Many have adopted the regions of warmer climates.

SOLUTIONS TO URBAN HEAT ISLANDS

The solutions to urban heat islands are eco-friendly and sustainable.

Electric Transportation: Electric cars don’t run on burning fossil fuels. It will reduce the release of carbon into the air. Hence the result would be declining greenhouse gases in the air.

Eco-Cities: Eco-cities or sustainable cities can help mitigate the effects of the urban heat islands.

Renewable Energy Sources: Switching to renewable energy sources is more eco-friendly way than fossil fuel combustion.

Waste Management: Waste heat that causes urban heat islands can be reduced by proper waste management plans and techniques.

Urban Forest: Miyawaki urban forests are one of the possible solutions to urban heat islands because these forests can grow in congested areas.

Roof Top Planting: Making roofs greener by tree plantation or vegetation can reduce the urban heat island effect. Hydroponics can be a solution.

CONCLUSION

Human population growth needs resources for its survival. Industrialization, urbanization, and overexploitation of natural resources are few examples of human activities. Climate change is happening at its worst. The hotter cities are creating discomfort, health problems. There is a dire need of sustainable cities to reduce the urban heat island effect.

Also, check out Is Climate Change the Reason Behind Worsening Allergy Season?

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