The Los Angeles Heat Mirage

Even during record heat, surprisingly few people go to L.A. cooling centers. Why? For $10,000, you can go inside to see and hear how it works.

(Los Angeles) — L.A. is no stranger to its reputation for being a city where the air seems to get sucked from the street. How, exactly, it does that, no one knows for sure. (The street is the reason why.) There is speculation it is due to all the garbage, or maybe the heat.

Whatever the reason, the phenomenon, which has been called L.A.’s “heat mirage,” has led to increased complaints by residents about the air in the city. But not everyone is bothered by it.

“I don’t mind the heat,” said JoAnn McElrath, who lives in West Hollywood, “but I’d like to get out of the sun and air-conditioned.”

McElrath got a $10,000 “heat mirage” tour of the city.

“For $10,000 I went into a building filled with hot computers and air conditioning, and heard what the heat did to people,” she said. “But all I really got was the opportunity to make a complaint to the county.”

The heat mirage is an old trick. Over decades, engineers have been able to build a natural cooling system out of the sun that allows air to move freely in and out of a particular spot without a fan. The “cooling center” is made up of several large rectangular “blocks,” usually about 10 by 20 feet, with rows of doors opening into the floor; it also has a concrete “water tank” where the heated air goes and cold air comes in, creating a wind in the blocks.

The cool air rushes out to all directions, especially during a hot day. The heated air just sits there. Because of the design, the block doesn’t cool down or even really warm up.

During a cold, dark, windless day, the blocks, no matter where they are, will be around 30 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. That is because cold air cools down faster than warm air, so it sinks to the bottom of the block, where it gets colder. The blocks at one

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