Cities Are Vulnerable To Heatwaves. But Green Spaces Can Help More Than We Thought

It’s not just that the planet is getting hotter; cities are getting much hotter than their surroundings. In fact, urban heatwaves have become a common occurrence, affecting 1.7 billion people. In Europe alone, the 2023 heatwave killed over 61,000 people. Now, a new study by researchers in the UK shows how much green interventions can help cool down cities.

The world is heating up as a result of our activity — by now, hopefully, we all know that. But fewer people know that cities are heat islands.

The Urban Heat Island

The Urban Heat Island is a phenomenon where urban and suburban areas experience higher temperatures than their rural surroundings. This temperature discrepancy is primarily due to human activities and the physical characteristics of urban environments. Cities, with their dense concentrations of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure, absorb and retain heat more than natural landscapes.

Materials commonly used in urban construction, such as concrete and asphalt, have high thermal mass and low albedo, meaning they absorb a significant amount of solar radiation and release it slowly over time, leading to increased temperatures. Read more