Olympic athletes are competing on an urban heat island

Olympic athletes are competing on an urban heat island

Land surface temperatures in Tokyo show that it’s an urban heat island. | NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Nearly unbearable heat and humidity have made competing at the Tokyo Olympics rough — but the urban sprawl of the city is making things even worse. An insidious phenomenon called the “urban heat island effect” shows up in stark temperature maps of the area put together by NASA. Because Tokyo is an urban heat island, it traps heat, making conditions worse for athletes and residents.

The forecast is bad enough on its own. This could be the hottest Olympic games on record. Air temperatures have already hit 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit) since the start of the games. Temperatures will dip a little bit today as a tropical storm rolls by — but once that passes, the mercury is expected to climb back up to sweltering temperatures…

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