Yes, it's a bit hotter than it was a hundred years ago, but more interesting is that our hot season is longer than it used to be. You probably know that it feels like summer and rains alot between June and October. Using temperature averages, scientists have noticed that our hot season is ending closer to November than it ever did.
What you need to know
It's hot here mostly because of our sub-tropical location and partly because of something called the heat island effect. Because we live in a city, we have a lot of paved surfaces and buildings. All of that concrete and stucco and asphalt and brick (especially the ones that are darker colors) absorbs our gorgeous warm sunshine, and then it radiates it back into the air as heat, sort of like a pizza oven.
The amount of greenhouse gas we send up into the air might be a problem anyway. Even though scientists think that most of our area's heat comes from the heat island effect, everyone agrees that there is another effect that is warming other places in the world, and our activity as a big city-- may be contributing to it. It's called the Greenhouse Effect. A greenhouse is a glass house that is used to grow fruits, vegetables, and other plants even in the winter. The heat from the sun is trapped inside of the glass house keeping it warm during the day and fairly warm throughout the evening, which allows the plants to grow. In the same way, the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere trap heat from the sun during the day. Most go back at night time. This is a natural process that the earth needs to keep all living things alive. The problem is that our atmosphere is now full of more greenhouse gases than ever before, and the theory is that's causing the earth to warm.
What it all means
We have to find smart ways to be the heat. If we know that the buildings and paved surfaces are the main reasons why our average temperature is slightly hotter, then we can lower the amount of heat they give off. And this one is easy! It just takes time and effort. There are lots of things we can do. Planting trees, painting surfaces with light and reflective colors, using less machinery in our homes are just some of the ways we can cool off our city.
Fire safety becomes more important for us. We are lucky that we live in a wam sunny place, but all that warmth means dry grass and plants, and hot, reflecting surfaces, and that means fires can start easily. We all need to learn about fire safety and be sure to have and practice fire evacuation plans at home and at school.
Too much heat and sun can be bad for your health. We like to think of ourselves as pretty tough-- top of the food chain-- but the truth is that some bugs are better suited to the heat than we are. And, no offense, children are especially prone to suffering from things like heat headaches and dehydration. It's important to know your limits. Wear sunscreen. Drink lots of water. Save active play for cooler times of the day. Learn to swim so you can cool off safely.
What we are doing
- Adding more green-- literally. We're planning more green space, even tiny patches of it near sidewalks.We are planting hundreds of trees each year and giving away thousands of them for free.
- Asking people who live here to change the way they build buildings. Lots of smart people know how to make building that emit fewer greenhouse gases and that absorb and radiate less heat. That know how is called a "green building standard" and we're asking people to follow those standards.
- Leading by example. We're taking a long hard look at City buildings and the way we do things and we are changing to greener ways.
What you can do
- Learn about the Greenhouse Effect and grenhouse gases.
- Try to conserve energy. Much energy production creates greenhouse gases. The more we use, the more we produce, the more gas we send up into the atmosphere. Check out our advice for being a SmartWatt.
- Do your part to make sure that your family drives less. Check our tips here.
- Don't waste food. Food that you throw away usually ends up in a landfill. Food waste produces methane, one of the four really bad greenhouse gases. Take only the food that you know you will eat. Use your leftovers. Talk to the adults around you about food waste.
- Be sure you now how to dial 911 in case of a heat or fire emergency.