Jun 13, 2023 - Climate

Yes, New Orleans summers are getting hotter

Data: Climate Central; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Average summer temperatures increased in New Orleans by 3.1°F between 1970 and 2022, per a new analysis by climate research group Climate Central, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick and Tory Lysik report.

  • Average temperatures were 84°F in 2022, compared to 80.9°F in 1970.

Why it matters: Extreme heat is a serious health risk, leading to both immediate acute effects (such as exhaustion and heat stroke) as well as longer-term complications due to reduced air quality.

Threat level: On top of rising overall temperatures due to climate change, New Orleans is the worst "heat island" among all major U.S. metros, according to Climate Central.

  • Mostly due to a lack of permeable surface, New Orleans can be nearly 9°F warmer than surrounding tree-covered communities.
  • Newark, New York City, Houston and San Francisco are all close behind.

What's happening: This year isn't shaping up to be any cooler. The climate outlook for June through August shows Louisiana and a broad swath of the country are likely to see a hotter-than-average summer, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.

The big picture: Between 1970 and 2022, summer temperatures rose by 2.4°F on average across nearly 230 locations — 95% of the locations the group analyzed.

  • Approximately half of the locations analyzed are now reporting at least two more weeks' worth of summer days with above-normal temperatures compared to 1970.

What's next: Cities nationwide are hiring "chief heat officers" to head up efforts to mitigate urban heat, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports, including through the use of "smart surfaces" and increasing tree cover (and thus shade).

  • Hurricanes like Katrina and Ida were brutal to the tree canopy in New Orleans, and leaders say the unseasonably hot, dry weather in 2021 and 2022 also took a toll.
  • New Orleans is trying to plant 40,000 trees by 2030. As of May, Parks and Parkways crews had planted 1,165.
  • A mixture of 26 native and adapted species are being planted, including various species of oak trees, crape myrtles and magnolias, as well as bald cypress, Mexican fan palm and swamp maple trees.
  • The reforestation plan will tie in with the Big Green Easy, the masterplan that's in the works from Parks and Recreation, city leaders say.

What he's saying: "Trees and green spaces are some of our most important natural tools to combat extreme heat, flooding and soil erosion,” Greg Nichols, the city's deputy chief resilience officer, said in an emailed statement last month.

  • “These significant benefits are often missing in our historically disadvantaged and less affluent neighborhoods. The efforts we are undertaking now to expand our green areas across the city will make us a safer, healthier and more equitable community for our future generations."

Zoom in: The city's health department has a "Climate and Health" section with advice on how to prepare for an extreme summer. Of course, pay close attention to babies and children, elderly neighbors and family, athletes and workers outside.

The bottom line: "As carbon pollution traps more heat in Earth's atmosphere, the summer season is warming, summer temperatures are arriving earlier in the year, and risky heat extremes are becoming more frequent," per Climate Central.


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