DALLAS (CBSNewsTexas.com) – This Texas heat refuses to let up this week as triple-digit temperatures continue to sizzle.
For anyone who needs to get out, experts are urging them to find ways to stay in the shade. But if they’re in the middle of a big city like Dallas, they might feel a little warmer due to what’s known as the “urban heat island.”
The term refers to a place in the middle of a city that has concrete, asphalt, roads, buildings without many trees to compensate for the sun’s rays. This creates a warmer microclimate than more rural areas.
Groups like the Texas Trees Foundation are trying to change that.
The organization told CBS News Texas that surface temperatures can vary 30 to 40 degrees under a shade tree compared to hot asphalt because surfaces absorb heat all day that stay warm and radiate heat at night, whereas in areas where there are trees this is not the case.
“The trees help cool the areas by shading, they transpire the evapotranspiration that they use, it’s kind of like a swamp cooler, and then it cools the temperatures around those trees and then also the carbon sequestration which absorbs the carbon from the atmosphere in different parts of the tree that gets absorbed and that shows that it cools the temperatures as well,” said Rachel McGregor, urban forestry manager, Texas Trees Foundation.
The foundation said Dallas is the seventh hottest city in the country. They did a study several years ago, which determined that UT’s Southwestern Medical District and areas where there are school campuses are the warmest since there isn’t much tree cover.
Currently Dallas has a tree canopy of 32% equal to over 14 million trees, the goal in the coming years is to bring it to 37%. And they are working with the city to achieve this.
But it’s not as easy as planting more trees because for cities it can cost a lot of money as the first two years of a tree’s life requires constant watering and tending and crews of staff to check the trees. The lifespan of a tree in an urban area is also much shorter than in rural areas, yet TTF urges that there is no better time than now for cities to start doing this.
“There’s a clear concern about cities getting even hotter, I mean, they’re projected to get hotter, so we need to start putting policies in place now, we need to start expanding budgets and the capacity to maintain these trees for years to come,” McGregor added.
Adding trees can also help some people with medical conditions like asthma according to McGregor and when more trees are planted along the roads, it reduces the speed of cars.
The City of Dallas announced this week that it is partnering with NOAA to map the city’s heat island areas.
And asking volunteers to drive routes to record temperatures on August 5th.
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