Climate Change and Extreme Weather: Urban Heat Islands

October 13, 2021

This event was held on October 13, 2021 at 3:00 pm CT.

In October, we brought together researchers and decision makers to discuss Urban Heat Islands – a major health hazard associated with climate change facing Missouri’s urban populations. The roundtable discussion was co-hosted with the MOST Policy Initiative.

Due to climate change, Missouri has experienced an increase in average annual temperature and precipitation over the last half-century. These changes have led to heavy precipitation and flooding during the springtime, particularly on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries. However, shifting rainfall patterns mean that summer droughts are likely to occur more frequently and with greater severity in the coming decades. Forest cover in the state is projected to decrease with rising temperatures. Agricultural production will be impacted by flooding and droughts, but also has the potential to mitigate climate change by promoting soil carbon sequestration. Urban areas are projected to experience increasingly poor air pollution and the impacts of urban heat islands as temperatures rise, leading to harmful effects on human health. 

Missouri does not have a statewide climate action plan; however, several municipalities and regions have developed local climate action and adaptation plans. In Kansas City, the Mid-America Regional Council and Climate Action KC are coordinating a carbon emissions inventory and subsequent climate action plan. This region is one of three regions that has joined the Global Covenant of Mayors (with Denver, CO, and Washington, DC). Several cities in St. Louis County have developed climate action plans (e.g., City of Creve Coeur), and the City of St. Louis has implemented several initiatives to combat climate change after completing a baseline inventory of carbon emissions in 2010.

In larger cities where local governments have not directly addressed climate change, community organizations work to support sustainable programs and practices. Additionally, researchers at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, Missouri State University, University of Missouri – Columbia, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis University, and University of Missouri – St. Louis are seeking solutions to local challenges in their respective communities.