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A SALURBAL Study: Green Spaces, Air Pollution, and Climate-Related Heat Mortality in Latin American Cities

Preliminary Study Results:

Areas verdes y seguridad hidrica 2021 SPA

Greenspace and water security: This brief highlights three examples of coordinated, city-level action from the public and private sectors designed to promote greenspace, increase water security, and safeguard human health. These actions were declared through CDP’s global disclosure system, which helps investors, companies, cities, states and regions identify and manage their environmental impacts.

Descargue el informe sobre áreas verdes y seguridad hídrica aquí (SPA)

Extreme heat has caused more deaths this century than those related to hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. Climate change will increase the frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme heat events, and will contribute to additional heat-related deaths.

Greenspace can help protect a city and the people who live there from extreme temperatures. At the same time, air pollution interacts with temperature and can change the way heat affects people and the urban environment.

green space in Santiago de Chile

Understanding these connections is important for predicting the impacts of heat waves on health and mortality, and for informing urban decision-makers, first responders, and other actors about ways to address and prevent the health impacts of extreme heat.

High levels of urbanization, inequality, and exposure to increasingly frequent and severe heat waves in Latin American cities make the region an important setting for exploring these questions. 

The SALURBAL Study

This ancillary study builds upon the unique database developed by the SALURBAL project, which includes information about the urban environment, socio-economic indicators, and health outcomes for people living in over 300 cities across 11 Latin American countries.  

By looking at temperature, air pollution, and greenspaces over time, the study is working to understand:

  • The impacts of past extreme heat events on health and mortality in Latin American cities;
  • How future extreme heat events will affect people’s health and mortality in cities, under different global greenhouse gas emissions scenarios;
  • How greenspaces and air pollution might modify the impacts of heat on health and mortality; and
  • How certain characteristics of urban populations may affect their vulnerability to extreme heat events.

Data sources:

The study has collected and processed temperature and humidity data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, available through the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Greenspace prevalence, configuration areas, have been calculated using Landsat images available at 30m spatial resolution. Air pollution (PM2.5) data are based on a global dataset that integrates satellite, monitor, and modeled data to produce annual means from 1998 to 2016 with ~1km spatial resolution. (See previous SALURBAL research on air pollution in Latin American cities here.) Mortality data and other information about the urban populations within the area of study have been collected and processed in collaboration with the SALURAL project team.

Analysis plan:

First, at a baseline (early in the 21st century) we are examining associations between extreme heat events and excess mortality in cities, and how air pollution and greenspaces may modify these associations. Next, future heat-related mortality (for 2051-2055) will be predicted based on climate scenarios with high and low levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and for varying levels of air pollution and greenspaces.


Study Timeline

Heat Study Timeline 

Polluted highway in Lima
Photo Credit: Tamaimos

Partnerships and Collaborators

University of California, Berkeley
Drexel University
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Universidad de Sao Paulo
CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project)