Urban heat islands: The heat is on

Released 28/02/2018

A new CSIRO report commissioned by the ACT Government identifies Canberra neighbourhoods that are hotter due to the ‘urban heat island effect’.

“The urban heat island effect happens when pavements, roads and buildings absorb the sun’s heat and radiate it back day and night, increasing the temperature, and stopping the city from cooling down.

“This effect is becoming a greater problem as climate change causes warmer weather and more extreme temperatures,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“This report shows that we need to plan, build and manage our city in a way that meets these challenges.”

The report finds that:

  • Canberra’s summer land surface temperatures can be up to 100 C hotter by mid-morning in parts of the city, and up to 80 C hotter than surrounding rural areas at night.
  • Areas that typically experience above-average temperatures on summer mornings include: areas with large surfaces such as rooftops, carparks and paving, commonly found in commercial and industrial areas, major roads and intersections, and new housing developments; areas with low, sparse, dry vegetation; areas with few trees and little irrigation, and some artificial playing surfaces.
  • Areas that typically experience below-average temperatures on summer mornings include: Irrigated areas, water features and lakesides; areas with green vegetation, trees, and forest cover, as well as shady areas. Neighbourhoods with tree canopy shade of 30% or more can be up to 130 C cooler on a hot summer day.
  • Vulnerable groups, including low-income households and the elderly, are more at risk in extreme heat conditions.

The report has been released alongside the Government’s Living Infrastructure Information Paper.

“One option to reduce land surface temperatures is more living infrastructure – for example, wetlands and water bodies, parks with watered grass, shade trees, and buildings that incorporate greenery on their walls and roofs,” Mr Rattenbury said. “Living infrastructure and energy efficiency is increasingly becoming part of our way of life.”

Community encouraged to ‘Have Your Say’

A Living Infrastructure plan will form part of our new climate change strategy, the ACT’s Climate Strategy to a Net Zero Emissions Territory. Canberrans are encouraged to take part in the development of the strategy, which is open for consultation until 9 April 2018.

- Statement ends -

Section: Shane Rattenbury, MLA | Media Releases

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