Jun 29, 2016

Extreme heat a ‘silent killer’ in poorest Vancouver areas

Vancouver, BC
Canada
by
David P. Ball
,
metronews.ca
Lower Mainland neighbourhoods that become “urban heat islands” thanks to fewer trees and more pavement can also see more deadly heat waves when combined with unemployment or older populations, according to a new study. Image: Environmental Health Perspectives Journal
Lower Mainland neighbourhoods that become “urban heat islands” thanks to fewer trees and more pavement can also see more deadly heat waves when combined with unemployment or older populations, according to a new study. Image: Environmental Health Perspectives Journal

Because of the way global warming shifts the climate, the very most extreme events are the weather events most affected by climate change. As the average global temperature rises and the climate shifts, temperatures that were extreme under the old climate are closer to the middle of the new temperature range.

[M]ore economically vulnerable neighbourhoods in Metro Vancouver have the highest death rates during extreme heat waves, [a new study suggests].

The study used an index of economic vulnerability developed with the region’s chief medical officers — the Vancouver Area Neighborhood Deprivation Index (VANDIX) — and mapped it over the hottest-temperature areas, known as “urban heat islands,” from 1998 to 2014. There is no doubt the weather is getting hotter; April was the hottest it's been since at least 1981 in Vancouver, and last summer saw temperatures sizzle to their highest in recorded history. Both of those year-after-year records shattered the previous record temperatures of 2014.

In the hottest year overall, 2009, a weeklong heat wave where the humidex approached 35C coincided with 110 deaths above the normal.

Lower Mainland neighbourhoods that become “urban heat islands” thanks to fewer trees and more pavement can also see more deadly heat waves when combined with unemployment or older populations, according to a new study.