Urban Heat in L.A.

Another scorching L.A. Summer has come and gone, full of triple-digit heat waves and a city full of overheated Angelenos. 

This is something we’ve all become accustomed to, so it’s easy to forget the fact that the frequency of these hot days is a small piece of a large new normal that our city is facing as a result of man-made climate change.

For example, L.A. is even hotter than the desert surrounding it as a result of the urban heat island effect, which is a product of the sun being absorbed by so many square miles of concrete, rooftops, and other exposed urban surfaces. Have you ever walked onto your porch barefoot at night and wondered how in the world the floor was still warm? That’s the Urban heat island effect at work. 

Low Canopy

And the heat isn’t going anywhere. According to a study by U.C.L.A.

“By the end of [the] century … a distinctly new regional climate state emerges: average temperatures will almost certainly be outside the interannual variability range seen in the baseline… land locations will likely see 60–90 additional extremely hot days per year, effectively adding a new season of extreme heat.”

So what does this mean for Angelenos? 

For one, it means vulnerable populations will be at risk: young kids on unshaded playgrounds, elderly Angelenos walking to the corner store, and disproportionately low-income communities of color whose sidewalks lack the shade to mitigate the heat. Urban heat isn’t just a public health issue, but also a matter of social justice. ALL Angelenos should be protected from urban heat, period. 

Urban heat also means higher energy usage and electricity costs, more air pollution and the subsequent harm to human health, and reduced nighttime cooling. Essentially, the hotter the urban heat island, the sicker and more uncomfortable we become. 

Now comes the big question: what do we do about it?   

Well, one thing we’re already doing about it is planting trees. It’s what we do best, which is why we’re all over neighborhoods like Huntington Park and San Fernando. Unlike urban surfaces, greenspaces actually reduce urban heat via evapotranspiration; they provide shaded refuge for walkers and keep our homes cooler and our air conditioning off. So we’re planting in under-shaded neighborhoods and schools to provide as much protection from the heat as possible. 

Huntington Park Tree Planting - Earth Day 2019

Los Angeles is also full of Cooling Centers that are open to the public for use on hot days. Stop into Recreation and Parks facilities like recreation centers, senior centers, museums, The Los Angeles Central Library, and all LA Library branches to take a break from the heat. For a map of Cooling Centers, visit www.lacounty.gov/heat/

The Los Angeles Public Library

Reducing urban heat in Los Angeles is ultimately a little piece of a global puzzle; we as a species must care for our world in order for all of our cities to thrive. We have to pay attention to our consumer habits, elect government officials who will support the environment, and take note of the industries that are causing harm to the world around us.

We at TreePeople are dedicated to the mission of environmentalism… will you join us?