TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — Scientists say Tucson, Arizona is one of the fastest-warming cities in the country, and some areas are heating up faster than others.
Asphalt, concrete, are examples of materials that can bake in the sun and hold onto the heat. That energy radiates out at night keeping things from cooling off. It is known as the “Urban Heat Island Effect.”
“You look at freeways and inevitably along the freeways are areas with less shade and lower socioeconomic environment,” said Pima County Public Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen.
And it turns out the phenomenon is not impacting all areas equally. Dr. Cullen says poorer neighborhoods often have fewer parks and trees and more concrete.
“In certain parts of the community primarily in the southern part of the city the heat difference can be seven or eight degrees,” she said.
Cullen says rising temperatures are a public health issue. Not only can it cause heat stroke and death, but prolonged exposure can lead to other illnesses.
“If you are in a situation where you are exposed to heat, and you don’t drink enough water regularly you could end up with chronic kidney disease,” she said.
The disparity in the heat means minorities and those with fewer resources are getting hit the hardest. Something the county also saw tracking the spread of covid-19.
“We see that same difference when we look at heat,” said Dr. Cullen. “I think that’s what’s most striking to us, if we talk about vulnerability and we talk about equity that means we need to deal with this climate differential in the county.”
Dr. Cullen says simple things like planting trees and adding green space in underserved areas can make a big difference.
“We can all at least understand the need to mitigate heat, that we have adequate water, that we have adequate parks for everyone.”