How Phoenix Is Mitigating the Effects of Extreme Heat

Science and municipal agencies are involved

Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix has experienced extreme heat this summer.
Getty Images

This summer, Phoenix experienced record-setting temperatures in most uncomfortable way possible. A New York Times headline dubbed it “Phoenix’s Month in Hell,” and that’s not hyperbolic: for 31 consecutive days, the temperature there reached at least 110 degrees. A PBS report quoted Phoenix resident Ariana Araiza voicing an opinion likely shared by others in the city: “I have lived in Phoenix my entire life and I have not gotten used to the heat and I don’t think I will ever get used to this heat.”

Assuming this is the new normal for summers in Phoenix, it begs the question: how does the city make sure that its residents can manage in the heat moving forward? The city’s municipal government now includes the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation — and it’s part of a larger effort to keep the city livable for all residents.

In a recent article for The New Yorker, Geraldo Cadava provided an extensive overview of Phoenix’s efforts for heat mitigation. This includes work being done by scientists at Arizona State University into what Cadava describes as “the connection between heat and housing.” This can take several forms, from Phoenix residents without air conditioning to homes in the city that don’t retain cooler temperatures as well as they should.

As Cadava details, residents without homes or shelter are especially affected by extreme heat, as are people living in mobile homes. The work being done at A.S.U. and within the city agency can take many forms, from adding more shade trees to overly sunny parts of the landscape to investigating the possibility of more transportation options to lower the possibility of becoming overheated on a commute.

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In the article, Cadava writes that the city agency in question is “the first publicly funded office in the U.S. that deals specifically with heat.” With temperatures rising around the country, it seems unlikely to be the last.

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