Extreme Heat: How cities and their residents should protect themselves


Climate change is upon us – it’s a reality affecting us personally. Hot days are getting hotter and more frequent in Oregon, across the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Wildfires and “unhealthy air” days are becoming more frequent. As extreme heat becomes common and more severe, it’s leading to more heat-related illnesses, emergency room visits and deaths.

The 2021 heat dome killed 69 people in Multnomah County, which until then had been known for its typically mild summer weather. Five more people in the county died of overheating last year. And this summer, we’re again likely to see temperatures climbing over 100 degrees.

CIties, in turns out, are particularly vulnerable to heat – from the way they’re designed to the materials used for decades to build homes and businesses. Local leaders here and across the globe are rethinking how urban development and how to prepare for severe public health emergencies related to extreme heat.

Why and how should Portland best protect its residents from heat? What can people do individually to ease the burden of extreme heat?

Vivek Shandas, a professor at Portland State University in the geography department, studies the impact of climate change on cities and figures out the strategies they can use to reduce those impacts.

He talked about a new effort to map temperatures across the tri-county region, how Portland can require developers to dial down the heat inside buildings and what strategies we can all adopt to prevent heat illness.

Read more about what extreme heat does to neighborhoods in and around Portland at The Oregonian/OregonLive:

Multnomah County sues big oil, coal companies for $51 billion over deadly heat dome

Study after deadly Portland heat dome shows air conditioners not the sole answer in public housing

Hundreds sought refuge at cooling centers during record Portland heat wave

What the heat dome tells us about Oregon’s future climate

Report: 2021’s heat dome produced 53 times the number of E.R. visits for heat illness

Historically racist housing policies exacerbating climate change effects in low-income Portland neighborhoods

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