In nearly every major city in the U.S., people of color are exposed to more extreme urban heat than white people, a new study found.
Using government temperature and census data, researchers examined the distribution of heat islands – parts of cities with higher average temperatures than the surrounding areas. The study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, found that during the summer of 2017 in nearly all large urban areas, the average non-white person lived in a census tract with higher heat island intensity.
Glenn Sheriff, a co-author of the study and environmental economics professor at Arizona State University, was surprised to find such pervasive disparities: It was seen in all but six of the country’s 175 largest urban areas.
“I expected to see that people of color had a higher exposure to this heat island effect in maybe a majority of cities,” Sheriff said. “But what we found was that something like 97% of the cities had these disparities.”
The researchers used heat islands as a proxy for exposure to extreme heat. These places are usually landlocked and laden with concrete, with little to no grass, trees or bushes. Because of this, they typically attract and retain more heat than surrounding areas. With climate change warming the planet, heat islands have been an increasingly scrutinized by environmental scientists over the last decade.
“The physics behind the urban heat island means that the strongest temperature increases occur in the central parts of urban areas,” said Ken Kunkel, a senior scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not involved with the study.
People living in or near heat islands can experience hotter days, less nighttime cooling and higher air pollution than surrounding areas. Those conditions can contribute to heat-related deaths and illnesses such as stroke, respiratory difficulty, cramps and exhaustion, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition to finding disparities between people of color and whites, Sheriff and his colleagues also found that the average person of color is exposed to a higher heat island intensity than the average person living below poverty. This is the case even though only 10 percent of people of color lived below the poverty line in 2017.
This finding surprised Sheriff. As an economist, he said expected to find that more affluent people of color would have less exposure to heat islands than people with lower incomes.
“It suggests that there’s some non-economic factor at play here,” Sheriff said. “It’s not purely that property values are pricing poor people out of (cooler) neighborhoods because the average person of color is not living in poverty.”
That factor is race, according to Sacoby Wilson, an environmental health professor at the University of Maryland who was not part of the research team. He’s researched pollution for decades and has found similar racial inequities in air pollution and water contamination.
Wilson said racism is an underlying driver of these disparities, leading to discriminatory housing policies and zoning laws, for example. Society can invest in planting trees, creating greenspace and tear down highways, he said, “but we’ve got to dismantle racism, man.”
“Like people say you’ve got to plant more trees,” he said. “Yes, that’s part of it, but the root cause is racism.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
© 2021 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.
Dang, Now to the disgraceful Democrats “heat” is racist.
The earth is “racist”
Flowers are “racist”
Water is “racist”
The Sun is “racist”
This Dishonorable liberal Democrat “racist” crusade has little or nothing to do with protecting the sensitivities of Black Americans and everything to do with the Democrats setting themselves up as their saviors. Their practice of patronizing groups cannot yield to the facts. For their cause is not defending the oppressed or the offended but about making themselves look wonderful with their latest destructive political Con.
You know what ISN’T racist, to these libtards!
NOTHING.. Everything is racist to them!
All I can say is: What a Crock of ****.
Who do you think paid for this promotion of racism? I would bet it was our federal tax dollars. Federal grants pay for things even dumber than this and now that earmarks are back there will be a lot more of them slipped into Biden’s mega-trillion dollar bills.
YOu can take it to the bank, that WE the tax victim are footing the bill for this nonsense.
Another wicked irony of our racial madness. Due to “systemic racism” we have to restart racial discrimination. In order to ensure “equity” we have to go back to segregation. Now we need to turn American cities into tree-filled jungles. If sunlight were not now confirmed to be another instrument of white supremacist repression, we could say that there is nothing new under the sun.
What get’s me, is every year, we see ‘drives’ to get “Ac units/fans” etc for The Poor, yet it often seems to be the SAME FOLK YEAR AFTER YEAR< getting a new ac, or new set of fans, FROM THOSE DRIVES..
So what the hell are they doing with the fans and portable AC units, they ALREADY RECEIVED!???
Why, they’re “Being Green”, by recycling them in yard sales, at pawn shops & etc.
“Glenn Sheriff, a co-author of the study and environmental economics professor at Arizona State University”. Now we know that “heat” is racist and seeks out people of color. So we whites are racist, because of heat. Just like covid was racist because the virus went after people of color. They should take these communist Professors and send them on a one way trip to North Korea. One pays 50,000 a year to go to colleges, so a bunch of idiots / Professors teach college kids this garbage.
I think I understand…everything, literally everything, is racist.
What a bunch of foolishness.
Are they saying people of color should go indoors, so their skin does not absorb and radiate so much heat?
Maybe we should send all blacks, to ANTARTICA, that way they don’t have to worry about heat!
It isn’t climate change that burns me up—its all the ignorant “data” the proponents constantly throw out to make it appear as legitimate.
I am surprised they didn’t know that tall concrete buildings practically butting up against each other, no trees or vegetation, no breezeways, automobiles galore, etc. would result in stifling hot living conditions. Cities are anti- human in their designs and brutal in the lack of healthy solutions. I can’t help but wonder how much heat the concrete, asphalt, and human body heat contributes to the health decline of city inhabitants,, and the heat index? Is it possible that global warming is nothing more than penning people up in city cages so bureaucrats can exert more control with less effort?
Does ANYBODY realize that the Official Temperatures are taken at LARGE Metropolitan Airports ????
And what is at Airports….. LOTS of Concrete for the Runways and LOTS of HOT Jet Exhaust….. Not to mention all of the Concrete for the Highways and Roads and roof tops….. ALL Absorbing HEAT and radiating it back into the atmosphere. There is NOT near enough GREEN Space to repel the heat.
While Temperatures at Local RURAL Radio Stations remain UNCHANGED over the course of time…..
Thats even if they HAVE temperature readers AT those rural areas!
All cities are heat islands. Decades ago, the Weather Bureau (now the Weather Service) had temperature measuring stations scattered throughout the country. Now, they’re mostly in cities. To get rural temperatures, they interpolate between mostly-city readings. So their estimate of the trend of nationwide average temperature is biased toward the higher temperatures of cities.
The world started gathering meteorology data in 1870. This was the coldest year in 8000 years. So the conclusion that the sky is falling (errr, the world is melting) is based upon a really bad experiment.
Look at the Greenland Ice Project data in the first two columns at
It’s a good thing we have a child spreading her parents’ propaganda from the Party of Science at the United Nations General Assembly.
Quick! Somebody hire her, while she still knows everything!
My grandparents were brought up in a heat island. At one time, the Lower East Side had a greater population density than Delhi India. Was this racist? They were poor Eastern European Jews.
The “professors” conducting these “studies” are nuts! I remember NYC in the summer when I was a kid and seeing people in the middle of the night sleeping on their fire escapes. We were aware of heat islands then, it was simply part of living in “the city”, a lot of my friends were from “the city”. I lived in eastern Long Island as a kid, nobody that we knew had air conditioning. nobody! I remember it being so hot and humid on summers nights that I’d be stuck to the sheets by my own sweat! We sure weren’t thinking about racists things then! Everyone that I knew, was just as miserable as I was. Race had nothing to do with it, just as it doesn’t today. At least people today for the most part have air conditioning, that’s a fact!
True that.. IT matters not what race one is.. LIVING IN A CITY without AC is HOT and muggy!
What does this mean? It means the Federal government will now purchase and give away air conditioners to those people living in “heat islands”, but only to non-whites.
WITH all the “Charity drives” i see, each summer to GET FANS and portable AC units for “The needy”, you’d have thought by now, with the sheer THOUSANDS EACH YEAR IN every city, that get given away by, in some cases 5 DIFFERENT ORGS, that there wouldn’t BE ANYMORE “needy”.
So either folks are getting them that don’t need them, OR THOSE WHO ARE GETTING them, ‘sell them, bank the dosh, and come a begging for new ones year after year…