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22.10.2019 05:32:09

The US state at the forefront of extreme heat research

Phoenix, Arizona, is known for its proximity to the Grand Canyon, its cactuses — and its palm trees?You wouldn’t expect to see the tropical trees in the middle of a desert, and yet, there they are, gently swaying in the breeze on the side of the road welcoming visitors driving into town from the airport. They make for quite a sight in the dry, rocky landscape, where the dominant colors are red, brown and yellow. Palm trees, of course, aren’t native to the Sonoran desert around Phoenix, and not everyone is a fan.“Palm trees were just put here for the tourists,” Patricia Solis, a geographer at Arizona State University (ASU), tells DW. “They are such a waste of a tree — they hardly provide any shade!”Read more: Climate change sets the world on fireShade is a precious resource in Phoenix. The city consistently ranks among the hottest in the United States. The fall season should be setting in, yet stepping outside feels like getting into a car that has been parked in the sun for too long.In the heat of a Phoenix summer, temperatures can rise up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (almost 49 degrees Celsius). In 2018, the city saw 128 days with temperatures at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).These high temperatures are the reason Phoenix is at the forefront of extreme heat research, a field that has garnered more attention in recent years. With rising temperatures due to climate change, officials from across the world are looking to places like Phoenix for advice on how to keep their cities livable and protect their citizens from heat-related illnesses.Dying of heatIn Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, extreme heat caused or contributed to 182 deaths in 2018. Of those fatalities, 30 to 40% happened indoors, in the victim’s own home.“In many cases of indoor heat deaths, they actually did have air conditioning in their homes,” says Liza Kurtz, a researcher who works with Solis at the ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “But they either had their electricity shut off because they didn’t pay their bill, or the AC broke and they couldn’t afford to fix it, or they didn’t dare turn it on because it was too expensive.”For mobile home residents, the risk of indoor heat death is especially high. Melissa Guardaro, a research fellow with the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network and a PhD student at ASU, has found that temperatures are even higher in trailer parks than elsewhere in the city. Mobile homes are mostly constructed of aluminum or vinyl plastic, materials that heat up quickly and easily reflect heat into the surrounding air.“If it’s 105 degrees downtown, it can easily be 110 or 115 degrees in a mobile home park,” says Guardaro.On this Tuesday, heat is radiating from the trailers in a mobile home park on the outskirts of Phoenix, surrounded by desert, mountains and highways. Solis and Kurtz are conducting a study that is trying to figure out the effect of extreme heat on the physical and financial health of mobile home dwellers, and are here to speak with some of the residents.One elderly woman is keeping her small, carpeted trailer at a relatively cool 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 degrees Celsius) with the help of air-conditioning. But that comfortable temperature comes at a cost: she relies on microwaveable TV dinners — cooking with the stove or oven would eat up too much power — and she only does her laundry when she has no more clean clothes to wear.Pouring concrete at 4 a.m.One way Phoenicians are adapting to high temperatures is by adjusting their daily rhythm to avoid the hottest hours of the day. From June until August, the Phoenix Zoo opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m.. And outdoor workers like landscape gardeners and construction crews arrive on the job before the crack of dawn.Jerod Teller is a division superintendent with the Haydon Building Corporation and in charge of public construction projects. Today’s job: pouring concrete for sidewalks and curbs in a parking lot in Avondale, a suburb of Phoenix. The crew’s start time: 4 a.m..As superintendent, Teller had to arrive even earlier, at 3:30 a.m.. The sun hasn’t risen yet and tall floodlights stand out against the pitch-black sky, illuminating the construction site. Despite the gloom, the temperature is already a stifling 86 degrees Fahrenheit.While getting up in the middle of the night is just part of the job for Haydon’s construction workers in the summer, their families lose out. Andrew Perryman, a project superintendent, has a 14-month-old baby at home whom he hardly gets to spend time with because of the night shifts. He said his wife isn’t too happy with the situation, but she understands that working in the daytime heat isn’t an option.Teller admits his spouse isn’t a fan of the early start time, either. “When my alarm went off at 2 a.m. this morning, my wife just turned to me and asked ‘Why?’,” he says with a laugh.‘Two seasons: Heaven and hell’But despite the early hour, none of the men seem tired. When the long hose connected to the concrete truck starts spitting out the gray mass, they immediately begin their routine. One worker moves around the nozzle to distribute the concrete evenly across the area that will become a sidewalk. Several others follow with shovels and a long bar to flatten out the material. The way the bright stadium lights illuminate the men in front of the black night sky make them look like high school football players getting ready for a Friday night game.Read more: How can cities adapt to a hotter climate?When the sun comes up around 6:15 a.m., temperatures immediately began to rise. Teller says his company regularly reminds its workers to stay hydrated, and each worker is given a card detailing symptoms of heat exhaustion.“There are just two seasons in Phoenix,” says Perryman, referring to summer and the rest of the year. “Heaven and hell.”The crew pours concrete until around 7 a.m., finishing just before it starts to get too hot. After that, some men finish off the brand-new piece of sidewalk, while others set up for the next day — another early morning in Phoenix, Arizona.Every day, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. Sign up for the newsletter here.這篇文章 The US state at the forefront of extreme heat research 最早出現於 The China Post。
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