July 31, 2021

Heatwave in Portland: three days in “hell”

As the thermometer read 46 ° C on June 28 at the Portland airport, researcher Vivek Shandas got in his car and left to take readings with his 11-year-old son. Professor “Climate adaptation” At Portland State University, he first picked up his equipment in the lab: homemade sensors, which measure temperature and humidity every second. Associated with a GPS, the “thermometer” makes it possible to evaluate the temperature from one street to another, from a building to a vacant lot, from a park to an office building …

The academic was not going to miss the opportunity. “It was a historic moment. I never imagined seeing such an extreme heat wave phenomenon in the Pacific Northwest for ten or twenty years. “ To be honest, it doesn’t even have an air conditioner. Like many in Portland, he slept on the floor, on the floor. “It’s surreal. I never thought about having air conditioning until last week when I have been studying this subject for twenty years! ”

Vivek Shandas is passionate about studying temperature variations that can be found not in just one region – the phenomenon of Urban heat islands are well known – but within neighborhoods of the same city. “In general, we only have one temperature measurement: it’s at the airport. It is a monolithic measure while there are variations of several degrees. “ His laboratory was commissioned to do analyzes in several large American cities. The conclusions are invariable. “We see the same phenomenon repeating itself everywhere between the hottest places and those where communities of color and low-income populations live. “

Vivek Shandas, a professor at Portland State University, studied temperatures across the city during the recent heat wave.

Inequalities in the heatwave

The Portland heatwave was no exception. The officially recorded record was 116 ° F (46 ° C) but the professor’s sensors recorded peaks of 51 ° C on Martin-Luther-King Boulevard in the northeast of the city, and on 82e avenue in the south-east, two historically deprived neighborhoods. With his infrared camera, he also captured the temperature inside the homeless tents set up between the freeway interchange, the convention center and the Steel Bridge, one of Portland’s 12 bridges. On June 28, it was 57 ° C. ” I was shocked. The human body has a fairly low tolerance for heat. If we get above 36 or 37 ° C, we start to have serious thermoregulation problems. »

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