7 Things You Should Know About L.A. Heat Waves and Climate Change

Photo: Stef McDonald

As you've likely noticed, the heat is on. As global temperatures continue to break records we're experiencing a rise in local temperatures in Los Angeles, as well as in the number of extreme heat days. Here's more about rising temperatures in L.A. and how climate change is related to those temperatures. 

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Get used to triple digits: Scientists have been able to project how high we can expect L.A. temperatures to rise as a result of climate change. Using global climate models, climate scientists at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) have projected that temperatures will increase by 3-5°F in Southern California in the next 30 years -- and all neighborhoods should expect many more extremely hot days, when the temperature exceeds 95°F.

Heat waves will be more common: Climate change is causing heat waves to be more frequent, longer-lasting, and more intense.

Positive feedback: Climate change is contributing to extreme heat days, and extreme heat days contribute to climate change. As extreme heat days usually lead to an increased energy demand from the use of air conditioners, that means more greenhouse gases emissions that contribute to climate change (until we can wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and move toward clean, renewable energy sources).

Recent record: L.A.'s hottest day? Downtown Los Angeles reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit on September 27, 2010. The National Weather Service began keeping records of temperatures in 1877. 

The risk to your health: Public health is threatened by extreme heat, with heat-related illnesses and mortality rates that rise with temperatures. Extreme heat can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as cardiovascular difficulties, and other . Existing medical conditions can also be exacerbated by by extreme heat; for instance, an increase in air pollution during extreme heat periods threatens those with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Hot times in the city: Heat waves are intensified because we live in a city and have to contend with the urban heat island effect, caused by an abundance of heat-absorbing surfaces (such as pavement) and activities (including car engines) that increase the temperature even more.

There's something we can do: Climate mitigation -- efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- can curb rising temperatures and keep us cooler. Although climate change has already heated things up for us, UCLA's projections show that mitigation efforts can slow the rise in temperatures by mid-century.

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