Dallas, Texas – As the sweltering sun blazes down on Texas, this week is being marked by an unyielding heatwave, with temperatures scaling the triple digits, and offering no signs of respite.
Experts are imploring those who must venture out into the searing climate to seek refuge in shaded areas. However, in bustling urban settings such as Dallas, individuals may confront an elevated warmth stemming from the phenomenon known as the “urban heat island.”
Urban heat islands in Dallas are the biggest concern
“Urban heat island” is a term employed to describe specific regions in a city that are blanketed with concrete, asphalt, roads, and buildings, but remain scantily punctuated with trees to counterbalance the relentless solar radiation. The resultant hotter microclimate starkly contrasts with the comparably cooler rural areas.
Texas Trees Foundation is combating the extreme heat in Dallas with planting trees
The Texas Trees Foundation, a group committed to mitigating this urban issue, has initiated a mission to shift this narrative. As they conveyed to CBS News, the discrepancy in surface temperatures in Texas under the cool refuge of tree shade, compared to the blistering hot asphalt, can range from 30-40 degrees. This disparity arises from the continual absorption and nocturnal radiation of heat by surfaces lacking trees.
“Trees help cool areas by shading, they transpire the evapotranspiration that they utilize, it’s kind of like a swamp cooler, and so it cools temperatures around those trees and then also the carbon sequestration which is absorbing carbon from the atmosphere in different tree parts those are absorbed and that shows that it cools down temperatures as well,” said Rachel McGregor, Urban Forestry Manager, Texas Trees Foundation.
Texas Trees Foundation says Dallas is the country’s seventh hottest city
The foundation has identified Dallas as the country’s seventh hottest city. Following a comprehensive study conducted a few years ago, they discerned the UT Southwestern Medical District and areas populated by school campuses as the hottest. These areas are critically deprived of tree canopy cover.
Currently, Dallas boasts a 32% tree canopy, accounting for more than 14 million trees. The foundation, in conjunction with the city, has set an ambitious target to increase this percentage to 37 over the coming years.
However, the process of planting additional trees presents its own challenges. For cities, the initial two years of a tree’s life require significant financial and manpower investments for constant watering and care. Further, the lifespan of an urban tree is comparatively shorter than its rural counterparts. Despite these impediments, the Texas Trees Foundation firmly advocates for cities to initiate the planting process immediately.
“There’s a definite concern with the cities getting even hotter, I mean it is projected that they’re going to get hotter so we need to start putting policies in place now, we need to start expanding budgets and capacity to maintain these trees over years to come,” added McGregor.
Beyond cooling, increased tree presence also bears medical advantages, such as aiding individuals suffering from conditions like asthma. Moreover, the strategic placement of trees along streets can curb vehicular speeds, thereby enhancing safety.
City of Dallas and NOAA are mapping heat island areas within the city
In an encouraging development, the city of Dallas has announced a collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to map heat island areas within the city. NOAA has further called upon volunteers to aid in recording temperatures by driving predetermined routes on August 5th.
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