Adelaide: an urban heat island

The skyline of 1970s modernist Adelaide from the top floor of the  Wakefield St  car park. We are  looking west towards Victoria Square.

Little has changed in this part of Adelaide since I  left living in  Sturt St in 2014 to move to Encounter Bay on the southern Fleurieu Peninsula.  The only change is the  hotel  on Whitmore Square-- the dark building in  the left  background. 

Summer in the CBD is  very hot due to the way surfaces like asphalt trap heat even as cars and buildings exude it. When a city is markedly warmer than  its surrounding rural areas, it is called an urban heat island.   Adelaide is one of the worst in Australia and it can be stressful, if not dangerous, to be outside  during a heatwave with 40+ degrees temperatures.  With  climate heating, the impact of higher temperatures will become more evident in the CBD. 

Trees provide shade while also lowering the temperature of their surroundings through evaporative cooling and so are a good response to climate heating. Large, mature trees with spreading canopy provide the best shade. However,  there isn't that much planting of trees in the CBD's streets  to reduce  the urban heat island effect,  and  help make it a cooler or greener city. The lack of green infrastructure in the city means that the public spaces swelter.  

  A lot of the old 19th century buildings, which are packed tightly together, with little air circulation and no air conditioning  are heat traps.  They’re like little ovens.

These buildings were constructed The new buildings  at a time when rapid change into a new climate was virtually unimaginable.

The new commercial buildings have air-conditioning and they are sealed  glass and steel boxes.  In summer  in Adelaide you can progress from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned garage and then in your air-conditioned car to parking garages, malls and workplaces which are all, also, air-conditioned. So no need for trees.   This urban form in  Adelaide urban makes heat worse by prioritising f comfortable private interior spaces over the commons of public space.