Prompted by lessons learned during Hurricane Sandy, New York City has been very proactive in planning for future extreme heat events. The Climate and Health Office has partnered with CDC’s Environmental Health Tracking Program to evaluate how future extreme heat events might affect city residents. Using public health data, they developed a baseline for annual heat-related illness and estimated an additional 110-260 heat-related deaths could occur in 2020 (3). (The 2020 projections assumed that climate adaptation strategies had not been adopted.) They also mapped neighborhoods to identify which areas would be vulnerable to power outages, or which areas might have the greatest need for outreach or emergency response during a heat wave (3). Data from the risk assessment and vulnerability maps were used to improve the City’s emergency response and hazard mitigation plans (4).
In addition to mapping vulnerable areas, the city is working to cool its urban areas. With NYC’s CoolRoofs program, rooftops in urban heat islands are painted a cool shade of white. The lighter surface absorbs less heat than darker surfaces and can reduce internal building temperatures by up to 30% (5). Not only can the cooling effect lower the risk of heat exposure and heat stress during the summer months, but it can also reduce energy use and peak demand for electricity during heat waves. To date, more than 6 million square feet of rooftops have been painted white throughout New York City.