Temperatures in some California cities this week broke decades-old records. The heatwave that cooked Las Vegas over the past few days brought temperatures over 100F (38C). And in Phoenix, highs this weekend are expected to approach or exceed 110F (43C). This year is on track to be one of the hottest on record, and public health officials worry that in cities across the US, summer heatwaves will collide with the coronavirus pandemic, with deadly consequences for poor, minority and older populations. Even before the pandemic hit, heat was killing more Americans than all other natural disasters combined. People who live in cities are especially vulnerable to heatwaves because of a phenomenon called the “urban heat island effect” – cities with populations of 1 million or more can be up to 5F hotter than surrounding areas due to high population density, a lack of greenery and shade, and because materials like steel, concrete and asphalt tend to absorb more heat. Analyses have also found that cities’ poorest neighborhoods tend to be hotter, and that many low-income families have been struggling to cope for years. In some neighborhoods of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, up to a third or more of households lack air conditioning. Due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, many more are unable to pay to run their ACs. And even as cities begin reopening after lockdown, many of the malls, public libraries and recreation centers where overheated Americans traditionally went to cool down remain risky, especially for older people and others with a heightened risk of dying from Covid-19.
Guardian 30th May 2020 read more »