Heat Vulnerability and Heat Island Mitigation in the United States

Jungmin Lim, Mark Skidmore
2020 Atmosphere  
Heat waves are the deadliest type of natural hazard among all weather extremes in the United States. Given the observed and anticipated increase in heat risks associated with ongoing climate change, this study examines community vulnerability to extreme heat and the degree to which heat island mitigation (HIM) actions by state/local governments reduce heat-induced fatalities. The analysis uses all heat events that occurred over the 1996–2011 period for all United States counties to model heat
more » ... ies to model heat vulnerability. Results show that: (1) Higher income reduces extreme heat vulnerability, while poverty intensifies it; (2) living in mobile homes or rental homes heightens susceptibility to extreme heat; (3) increased heat vulnerability due to the growth of the elderly population is predicted to result in a two-fold increase in heat-related fatalities by 2030; and (4) community heat island mitigation measures reduce heat intensities and thus heat-related fatalities. Findings also show that an additional locally implemented measure reduces the annual death rate by 15%. A falsification test rules out the possibility of spurious inference on the life-saving role of heat island mitigation measures. Overall, these findings inform efforts to protect the most vulnerable population subgroups and guide future policies to counteract the growing risk of deadly heat waves.
doi:10.3390/atmos11060558 fatcat:v4cly44qc5bt3mdzvf4xbufhoi