Arizona’s population growth affecting the climate, according to expert

The Valley has seen a spike in average temperatures in the last 50 years and that's in part due to a rise in population.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 8:21 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The population in Arizona has expanded a lot in the last decade. Maricopa County alone grew by more than 600,000 from 2010 to 2020, according to the United States Census Bureau. “More people means there are more places to live, more infrastructure, more asphalt, more cement, you have more buildings,” said Erinanne Saffell, a climatologist at Arizona State University.

She says all of that growth is causing an increase in our temperatures. “In the last 100 years or so, temperatures have increased by about 2 to 2.5 degrees across the state. But if you zoom in and look at the Phoenix metropolitan area, temperatures there have increased in the last 50 years by about 4-4.5 degrees,” Saffell said.

Inflation in Phoenix is also above the national average, and with the prices of homes on the rise, new, more affordable developments are popping up outside of the Phoenix metro area. “We put our concrete and asphalt, the human-made materials and they hold on to that heat all through the night and they release it very slowly at night,” she said.

In turn, that means your air conditioning runs longer because you’re trying to cool off and that could mean your energy bill could also be higher. Saffell says in these cases, trees can help. “Shade trees are excellent. We, of course, have to pick the correct shade trees for an arid environment for a desert. But preventing that sunlight from hitting your house in the first place is a good thing,” Saffell said.

She also said pressure is growing on our already stressed resources, especially water. Saffell says about 36% of the state’s water supply comes from the Colorado River. Luckily, she says Arizona diversifies its water resources and most of it is groundwater.