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Why Should Cities and Counties Care About Urban Heat Islands?

The Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect can adversely impact a city's public health, air quality, energy demand, and infrastructure costs.

       Poor Air Quality: Hotter air in cities increases both the frequency and intensity of ground-level ozone (the main ingredient in smog) and can push metropolitan areas out of compliance with federal air quality standards.

       Risks To Public Health: The UHI Effect prolongs and intensifies heat waves in cities, making residents and workers uncomfortable and putting them at increased risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In addition, high concentrations of ground level ozone aggravate re ratory problems such as asthma, putting children and the elderly at particular risk.

       High Energy Use: Hotter temperatures increase demand for air conditioning, increasing energy use when demand is already high. This in turn contributes to power shortages and raises energy expenditures at a time when energy costs are at their highest.

       Global Warming: Global warming is in large part caused by the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity for heating and cooling buildings. Urban Heat Islands contribute to global warming by increasing the demand for electricity to cool our buildings. Depending on the fuel mix used in producing electricity in your region, each kilowatt hour of electricity consumed can produce up to 2.3 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.

Mitigating Urban Heat Islands is a simple way to decrease the risk to public health during heat waves, while also reducing energy use, the emissions that contribute to global warming, and the conditions that cause smog.

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The following video segments help describe the heat island effect. They were created through a partnership between EPA and The Weather Channel (TWC) cable network as part of TWC's new 'Forecast Earth' series.
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highspeed (4.7 MB)

MAC Quicktime
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Textual transcript



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