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Google announces new feature to combat 'extreme' weather that kills nearly 500,000 people a year: 'Deaths are on the rise'

Google reports that 350 cities are using Tree Canopy worldwide.

Extreme heat alerts, Hot summer

Photo Credit: iStock

As our planet continues to overheat, many locations are experiencing more frequent natural disasters and extreme weather, including heat waves. These periods of unusually high temperatures come with major mental and physical health risks. 

Because of the danger, Google has announced that its Search function will now include "extreme heat alerts."

What is an extreme heat alert?

Google says its extreme heat alerts will appear when users search for information related to extreme heat. 

The search results will show details about when the next or current heat wave is predicted to start and end, reliable tips for staying cool, and accurate information about potential health concerns, all from sources vetted by the Global Heat Health Information Network.

Why is Google making this change?

According to Google, online searches for "heat waves" and related information reached an all-time high during the heat waves last July. Users were searching for the information they needed to stay safe during these events. 

"Every year extreme heat kills nearly 500,000 people, and heat-related deaths are on the rise," Kate Brandt, Google's chief sustainability officer, wrote on the company's blog. "To stay safe during extreme weather events, people often turn to the internet with questions."

Without reliable ways to stay cool, many people are at risk of illness or even death during heat waves — especially in areas that aren't used to high temperatures, where air conditioning may not be available or may overburden the electrical grid.

Google says it's trying to provide users with a better way to get the safety information they need to cope with these extreme weather events as they get more common.

How else is Google helping?

Google also announced that it is developing several tools to help cities control their temperatures, and is donating money to the cause. Cities are prone to becoming "heat islands" — areas full of structures that absorb and radiate the sun's heat, like roads and rooftops, instead of cooling the surrounding area like plants.

Google is also offering Tree Canopy, a new tool that analyzes the coverage provided by trees in a given city. 

It uses satellite imagery to identify the areas with the most and least coverage so city planners can identify problem spots. Cities can then add trees, shade structures, and other features to control the heat. 

Google reports that 350 cities are using Tree Canopy worldwide. The company also plans to develop a tool to analyze how much sunlight a city is reflecting — another way to cool off.

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