What is the Heat Island Effect?

What are Urban Heat Islands?

An urban heat island is a metropolitan area that experiences warmer temperatures than its surrounding rural areas. Man-made structures such as concrete buildings and paved asphalt roads absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes such as forests and bodies of water.

Green space or plant-life is limited in urban areas, where structures and buildings are highly concentrated. This causes these urban areas to become ‘islands’ of warmer temperatures relative to surroundings. Daytime ambient temperatures in urban areas are about 1 – 7°F higher than temperatures in outlying areas and nighttime temperatures are about 2 – 5°F higher.

How can Urban Heat Islands be managed?

Many strategies promoting energy efficiency and cold-weather comfort are also beneficial for dealing with high heat. Energy efficient buildings that consume little power will increase the capacity for the electrical grid to cope with periods of high air-conditioning demand in the summer.

Well-insulated buildings can keep the heat out in the summer, and keep the cold out in the winter, increasing comfort and reducing the need for consistent air conditioning.

There are some other strategies cities are implementing to help combat the effects of urban heat islands. These can include: increasing tree and vegetative cover, installing green roofs, installing cool (mainly reflective roofs), using cool pavements (either reflective or permeable) and by utilizing smart growth (urban planning) practices.

Why is this Necessary?

Heat islands contribute to increased daytime temperatures, reduced nighttime cooling, and higher air-pollution levels. This can impact the health of city dwellers. During periods of extreme heat, it is the habitual response is to set the air conditioning to full blast. However, this will increase can surge electricity usage and put a large strain on the electrical grid.

While MyHEAT doesn’t build maps to display heat island effects or vegetation covered “green roofs”, the solutions we provide directly support residents in making energy efficient upgrades to a home, increasing comfort and reducing strain on the electrical grid. MyHEAT also understands the importance of vegetation in our daily lives, and to honour this we take part in an annual tree planting event.

For more information on the Heat Island Effect, check out: https://climateatlas.ca/urban-heat-island-effect

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