12 February 2014 — Those living in Melbourne’s western, inner-north and south-eastern suburbs are at highest risk from heatwaves, according to research out of Monash University.
The researchers produced a heat vulnerability map that identified the most vulnerable postcodes based on risk factors including lack of tree cover, housing types and the age, health and socio-economic status of the population.
Suburbs that fared poorly included Sunshine, St Albans, Glenroy, Coburg, Preston, Reservoir, Clayton and Dandenong.
“Our research found a clear association between suburbs with extreme heat vulnerability and the number of hospital emergency visits or ambulance call-outs on extremely hot days,” said Professor Nigel Tapper from the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities.
“We found key factors that raised the risk of sickness or death in heatwaves included older people living alone, ethnicity and the proportion of land covered by buildings that leads to excess urban warmth.
“In areas that are covered by buildings, urban warming occurs that can increase local temperatures by around 4°C. This can take the temperature over the threshold where human health is threatened.”
Professor Tapper said the heat vulnerability maps could be used for emergency response planning by hospitals, ambulance and local government.
Chief executive of the Water Sensitive Cities CRC Professor Tony Wong said creating more green spaces and water in the landscape could reduce local temperatures and health risks.
“Promoting lush and well-irrigated vegetation can provide microclimate benefits by reducing excess urban heating through shading and cooling,” Professor Wong said.
“We should be planning more green spaces and planting more trees in the high vulnerability areas. Water planners and town planners need to work together to reduce local temperatures.”