Australian city designs must change in face of deadlier heatwaves: experts…

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Australian cities need to prepare for more frequent, intense and longer-lasting heatwaves, experts say, which could lead to restrictions on black roads and roofs that contribute to dangerous heat traps.

Heatwaves already kill more Australians than bushfires and cyclones and meteorologists say a looming El Nino weather system could push up summer temperatures later this year.

Scientists are investigating ways to lower the temperatures of Australian cities, including using light-coloured bitumen, planting more trees and floating the idea of banning black roofs.

“Australians regularly overestimate their ability to withstand extreme heat,” Professor Liz Hanna, an environmental health expert from the Australian National University, told Lateline.

“We think we know how to handle it because we live in a hot country but we’re now dealing with unprecedented extremes.

“We have to take heat as a health issue far more seriously.”

By 2050, an extreme heat event in Melbourne could kill more than 1,000 people in a few days unless there is better preparation, according to a Federal Government report looking at extreme heat events.

Scientists say cities can exacerbate extreme heat by four to seven degrees Celsius, especially overnight, triggering unnecessary deaths.

In some small urban spaces or microclimates, temperatures can jump more dramatically, says Professor Nigel Tapper, an urban climate specialist from Monash University.

“If we’re in an urban canyon where the forecast air temperature is 35 degrees and the sun is beating down onto hard, dark surfaces, then surface temperatures might be up to 70 degrees,” he said.

“That means the temperature you feel walking around is more like 45 or 50 degrees.”

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