Downtown Los Angeles hit 98 degrees on Saturday, breaking a temperature record that stood for 131 years -- and the number of extremely hot days is expected to triple by mid-century. That’s why L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to lower the urban heat island effect 3 degrees by 2035.
Like most big cities, Los Angeles literally creates its own climate. Buildings and asphalt absorb and radiate heat, raising summer temperatures by as much as 19 degrees in some parts of the region. According to CalEPA, L.A. has the worst urban heat island effect of any region in California.
Excessive heat is deadly. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, difficulty breathing, cramping and general discomfort killed more people between 1979 and 2003 than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Heat is the greatest weather-related public health threat,” said David Fink, director of policy at Climate Resolve, which works on urban heat issues in L.A.
L.A. is one of just two major cities worldwide with a temperature reduction target (the other is Melbourne). Outlined earlier this year by Mayor Garcetti, there are three main components of the plan: replace roofs with less heat-absorbent roofing materials, repave or repaint city streets to make them more reflective and plant more trees.