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The urban heat island and its impact on heat waves and human health in Shanghai


With global warming forecast to continue into the foreseeable future, heat waves are very likely to increase in both frequency and intensity. In urban regions, these future heat waves will be exacerbated by the urban heat island effect, and will have the potential to negatively influence the health and welfare of urban residents. In order to investigate the health effects of the urban heat island (UHI) in Shanghai, China, 30 years of meteorological records (1975–2004) were examined for 11 first- and second-order weather stations in and around Shanghai. Additionally, automatic weather observation data recorded in recent years as well as daily all-cause summer mortality counts in 11 urban, suburban, and exurban regions (1998–2004) in Shanghai have been used. The results show that different sites (city center or surroundings) have experienced different degrees of warming as a result of increasing urbanization. In turn, this has resulted in a more extensive urban heat island effect, causing additional hot days and heat waves in urban regions compared to rural locales. An examination of summer mortality rates in and around Shanghai yields heightened heat-related mortality in urban regions, and we conclude that the UHI is directly responsible, acting to worsen the adverse health effects from exposure to extreme thermal conditions.

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This material is based upon work supported by The Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30771846), Jiangsu Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster (No. KLME05005), National Scientific and Technical supporting Programs, Ministry of Science and Technology of China (No. 2006BAK13B06), and the Gong-Yi Program of China Meteorological Administration (No. GY200706019). Two anonymous reviewers are thanked for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jianguo Tan.

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Tan, J., Zheng, Y., Tang, X. et al. The urban heat island and its impact on heat waves and human health in Shanghai. Int J Biometeorol 54, 75–84 (2010).

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  • Global warming
  • Urban heat island
  • Heat wave
  • Human health