Flooding, drought, and extreme weather events are hot topics … and all are threats to human health.

But, historically, it’s heatwaves that cause the most weather-related deaths in the U.S.


Stone: “Extreme heat tends to be more deadly than hurricanes or tornadoes or earthquakes or even all of those things combined in any year in the United States, and so heat is quite dangerous and deadly.”

That’s Brian Stone, professor of urban and regional planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Stone is studying the so-called Urban Heat Island effect – the fact that cities are often much hotter than the rural areas around them – and therefore urban residents are at greater risk.

Stone: “What we find is that most large cities of the United States are warming at a rate that is double that of the planet as a whole and double that of the surrounding countryside around these cities.”

… like Louisville, Kentucky, which has one of the fastest growing heat islands in the U.S. To cool off, city officials have identified what drives the heat – loss of tree canopies; heat-absorbing materials used in roads and buildings; and waste heat from cars, homes, and power plants. The good news is that there are many solutions cities can implement to reduce the health risks of a heatwave.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...