Heat Waves More Frequent in Urban Areas, Study Finds

April 6, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. urban /ˈɜr bən/ (adj.) – relating to the characteristics of a city or being located in a city
Example: Most employees work in urban sectors.

2. consecutive /kənˈsɛk yə tɪv/ (adj.) – happening in sequence or one after another without skipping
Example: The city had no rain for 20 consecutive days.

3. precipitation /prɪˌsɪp ɪˈteɪ ʃən/ (n.) – water that falls from the sky in the form of rain, snow, and hail
Example: Rain is the typical form of precipitation in a tropical country.

4. infrastructure /ˈɪn frəˌstrʌk tʃər/ (n.) – the physical facilities and structures in a place such as buildings, bridges, and roads
Example: The government allotted higher budget for the improvement of public infrastructure.

5. heatstroke /ˈhitˌstroʊk/ (n.) – a severe sickness with high fever caused by extreme hot weather
Example: Many patients were diagnosed with heatstroke this summer.


Read the text below.
Urban areas in the world have experienced increased heat waves in the recent years, according to researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar [GAHN-dee-NAH-guhr], the Northeastern University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Washington.

The researchers defined heat wave as a prolonged period during which the daily maximum temperature was higher than most of the other days. This period covered six or more consecutive days of abnormally hot weather.

The researchers analyzed 217 urban areas in different countries. They gathered weather records for these areas dated between 1973 and 2012. The records featured the Global Summary of the Day (GSOD) provided by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). GSOD has records of air temperatures, observations for rain, and wind speeds. The researchers then identified which days had maximum levels of temperature and precipitation.

Results showed that 48% of the urban areas had increased heat waves over the past three decades. In addition, four out of the five years with the largest number of heat waves happened from 2009 to 2012. Only 2% of the areas observed had decreased heat wave frequency. Another notable finding is that the extreme windy days for 60% of the areas had decreased.

The authors said the stored heat in infrastructures and asphalts in urban areas may have contributed to the frequency of heat waves. The reduction in wind may have also worsened the heat wave’s effects.

Though urban areas are only a small chunk of the world, most people live in these areas. The researchers gave warnings on the harmful effects that increased temperatures may cause. Dehydration, fatigue, and heatstroke are among the health risks caused by heat waves.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         How do you think the harmful effects of heat waves (e.g. dehydration, fatigue, heatstroke, etc.) can be avoided?
·         What do you think authorities should do in response to these findings?

Discussion B

·         Do you think the effects of global warming can still be stopped? Why or why not?
·         How important is proper urban planning for a city? Do you think governments should prioritize this?

April 6, 2015