In Tucson, Sweltering Heat Threatens the Most Vulnerable

When the temperatures become dangerous in this desert city, not everyone has the option to retreat to air-conditioned spaces to wait it out.

September 4, 2019, 2:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink


Arizona Street

hherbzilla / Flickr

Tucson, Arizona, gets hot, but not all residents are affected equally, writes Ellice Lueders. "If you’re lucky enough to have an office job and a robust air conditioning system, your discomfort will be limited to the walk through a parking lot. But as summers get more intense, people who work outdoors, those on a low income and the elderly face imminent peril."

The effects of climate change have already hit Tucson hard, and projections show that by 2050 the number of "danger days," where temperatures over 105 degrees, will increase and occur more than a third of the year. 

Low-income neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to rising temperatures as the result of urban design that exacerbates heat issues. "These areas suffer from the same urban heat island effect that causes the rising number of heat deaths in Phoenix, where fewer trees and larger swaths of impermeable ground prime areas for heat absorption," notes Leuders.

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