The summer of 2011 was the second hottest one on record, according to NOAA. No states recorded temperatures below average. The majority posted above average temperatures. A new study by UCLA climate expert Alex Hall offers another perspective, specifically, on the future impact of climate change on Los Angeles.
Hall’s report predicts that temperatures in LA will rise by 4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century. To understand the impact, the NOAA 2011 figures showed the average U.S. temperature in August 2011 was 75.7 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s easy to see how an increase in temperatures will make seasonal conditions uncomfortable at best.
The study considered the effects in Los Angeles county as well as the surrounding area, including Orange County and parts of Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Densely-populated LA will likely see temperature increases of 4 degrees, while Palm Springs and Lancaster could experience up to 5 degree changes. This is the first time that a study to focus on site-specific impacts in the Los Angeles region.
The effects in urban areas like LA are exacerbated by population density and other factors associated with urban areas. The concentration of buildings along with the infamous smog in the Los Angeles Basin creates a dangerous cocktail of unhealthy living conditions.
Individuals with pre-existing conditions and the elderly are most vulnerable. Smog or ground level ozone can potentially affect any person who spends time outdoors. The effects can range from throat irritation to scarring of lung tissue. Individuals may experience reduced lung function. Add the effects of rising temperatures, and it is easy to see the harmful path that cities like LA are following.
Lessons to Be Learned
Hall’s study provides important data for planning for the effects of climate change. With concrete numbers, city planners and officials can better quantify the impacts to develop more effective solutions. For the individual, climate change takes on a more personal aspect and may make the issue more tangible and easy to comprehend.
While greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase, knowing what challenges urban areas will face can provide the necessary impetus to make changes and help reduce the effects. As the summer of 2012 shapes up, extreme summer heat will remain a constant reminder of global warming inaction.