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Boston #6 for worst heat islands

Boston is ranked 6th in the country for worst heat islands.

Researchers at Climate Central, an organization that focuses on the impacts of the climate crisis, analyzed urban heat island factors in 158 cities in the United States and ranked the top 20 for worst urban heat:

There are places within cities where summertime heat can soar, and giant swings in temperature are observed over a matter of blocks. Neighborhoods with little tree cover, few grassy areas and a lot of concrete can be as much as 15 to 20 degrees hotter than the surrounding areas.

Numbers 1-20:
New Orleans
Newark
New York City
Houston
San Francisco
Boston
Chicago
Miami
Baltimore
Providence
Sacramento
Salinas, California
Burlington, Vermont
Bend, Oregon
Cleveland
Detroit
Erie, Pennsylvania
Fresno, California
Lafayette, Louisiana
McAllen, Texas

Neighborhoods: 
Topics: 
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Comments

Adam, I tried to break the story after the first quote, using the suggested "!--break-->" tag, but it didn't break. Can it be fixed?

[Edit] And now I see that on the front page, it did break. Oh me of little faith!

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1. Road diet via removal of a parking or travel lane
2. Expand sidewalks
3. Add more trees to the newly expanded sidewalks

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Time to find out how many square miles of city owned asphalt each mayoral candidate is pledging to replace with plantings over the next mayoral term.

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Or are you just pushing what you always push?

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It probably traps somewhat less heat just by being lighter in color. But if as he said you also plant trees in the extended sidewalk, I'd say it definitely does.

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Concrete reflects much more heat than asphalt, as alluded to in the article.

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Why is MLK Boulevard so wide? It goes from nowhere to nowhere, yet it's two wide roadway segments.

This would be a great portion of road to put in greenery. Gardens, trees, you name it.

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https://roxbury.fandom.com/wiki/Washington_Park_Urban_Renewal_Program-Pa...

"Bisecting the triangle nearly in half was the new Crosstown Boulevard that cut a four lane swath from a widened and straightened Warren Street to Washington Street. Humboldt Avenue would also be widened from its junction with the Crosstown to Seaver Street. The Crosstown (named in honor of Martin Luther King when it was completed in 1968) was originally conceived as a link in the I- 95 highway scheme as a feeder route from Columbia Road to an interchange at Heath Street."

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Urban meaning downtown? Or Urban meaning poor residential neighborhoods?

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It's very unlikely that this is the euphemistic term "urban". This would be land cover, population density, and similar metrics.

You can see the report here: https://medialibrary.climatecentral.org/uploads/general/2021_UHI_Report.pdf

EDIT: Of course, poor neighborhoods tend to have way less green cover, so yeah they're probably going to get hit harder than wealthy neighborhoods. But I don't think that was one of the factors they looked at.

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I'm not sure how true it is in Boston that poor neighborhoods have less green cover, even if that might be a general principle nationwide (or even for that matter regionally, since the wealthier suburbs certainly have tons of trees). Roxbury has a bunch of trees.

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Here's a paper covering exactly that question.

I am personally surprised learn that Lower Allston has a LOT of trees - it looks like the largest neighborhood area of tree coverage in the whole city!

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because when I moved back to Somerville after living in Lower Allston for 5 years, I felt *so relieved* to have tree cover again.

But Somerville is probably better than Boston on average in this regard, and I've heard the poorer parts of Somerville have much less tree cover, so.

(Your link is broken, but this is a good overview: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jun/28/houston-trees-shade-heat...)

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I remember people laughing about Somerville's efforts to add trees and return trees to their urban landscape starting in the mid-1980s.

40 years later we are seeing the results of that effort.

A huge part of the problem with heat and flooding in most US cities: redlining. Areas designated as too black/too many "undesirable" immigrants in the late 1930s were paved over and are now known to have more flooding problems and more heat problems than areas not so maligned.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/08/24/climate/racism-redlining-...

https://www.npr.org/2020/01/14/795961381/racist-housing-practices-from-t...

https://www.wbur.org/earthwhile/2021/03/05/haverill-merrimack-climate-re...

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Sorry - fixed.

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As in city. As in heavily developed = most of Boston and surrounding communities.

You would be surprised that what you probably consider "suburban" (e.g. houses on 3,000 to 5,000 sq ft lots) is actually considered inner-city urban in most US cities.

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Burlington, VT is 13th?? Wow.

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That one made me do a double take too. I guess there aren't a lot of trees in the Church Street/downtown area now that I think of it, but it's still pretty surprising they'd be this far up the list.

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Superhighway city, where even the rivers are paved, isn’t on the list. Weird.

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Have you been outside the downtownish areas?

The neighborhoods are quite verdant in many areas of the city where people live (as opposed to industrial areas).

They do have the same problems in poorer/redlined areas as other cities.

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I have been to LA. and spent days driving around, and I think I caught sight of it once, but couldn't find it again.

Which just confirms your point, I know. Now that you mention it, it did strike me how much of the city is residential, miles and miles of small houses.

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It's right on a very large lake - it hugs the shoreline. And yeah, the center of downtown has virtually no trees. With that said, it does have some awesome parks with plenty of trees. I love Burlington.

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I glanced at the CNN article and I read the summary of the Climate Central source report. https://medialibrary.climatecentral.org/resources/urban-heat-islands

I would not have questioned Newark or even New Orleans being on the list along with Boston. But then I saw Bend, Oregon (pop 93,000) and Burlington, Vt (45,000). Look at those 2 cities on Google Maps satellite view.

The only parts of Burlington that aren't relatively tree-covered are small industrial areas, a mall, airport, and hospital. Also, some of the down-town (lake-side) area that is touristy and middle-class. Is it hotter then the surrounding rural mountains? Maybe. But it's not like it's a vast tree-less set of pavement.

Bend is a long, narrow city. The built-up area (per google satellite view) is literally a few blocks wide by maybe 5 miles long. https://www.google.com/maps/@44.0679609,-121.3354175,9532m/data=!3m1!1e3

So then I also looked at the aerial map of Boston. Green is by far the most common color. Almost every street in the entire city is tree lined. https://www.google.com/maps/@42.2978699,-71.0827115,2453m/data=!3m1!1e3

Should we have trees and green surfaces where possible. Sure. Let's put less heat retentive roofs on buildings and parking lots if possible. But just saying that Boston (any neighborhood) is a giant paved monstrosity does not ring true.

PS- some of the least green areas in Boston, based on my fairly quick look at the map were one seciton of Charlestown (vic Allston St and Pearl St) and E. Boston where the airport and parking lots are. The non-green around Newmarket is large. I was somewhat surprised that Dorchester & Roxbury appear fairly green.

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How are the airport, seaport, and large swaths of traintracks around figure into these studies?

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I had the same reaction. This is an odd statement:

Andrew Pershing, the director of climate science at Climate Central, said the results were somewhat unexpected.
"Anything with 'urban' in its name you're going to be surprised if New York City and Chicago and places like that don't rate pretty highly," Pershing said. "But I was certainly surprised to not see places like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Reno on the list."

Why is that surprising? According to the study, "[the] index score for each city is a temperature representing the potential difference in average temperature for the city compared to its less developed surroundings." There's less of a contrast between those cities and the surrounding arid desert environments. It shouldn't be a surprise that comparing the small urban stamp of Burlington to its green VT surroundings will yield a bigger contrast.

More green space would be great, but we are pretty fortunate to have the Arboretum, Franklin Park / the Emerald Necklace, and other great spaces.

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Tree cover isn't the only variable in these studies.

ACTUAL HEAT RETENTION is the biggie. That is based on satellite mapping on hot days/nights ground truthed with surface measurements.

Bend, OR has issues simply because it was a 15,000 person place when I was growing up that ballooned after 1995 to a 100,000 person place. There has literally been no time to grow tree cover. That, and trees grow slowly in areas where every other business is "High Desert ..."

Do read through the entire assessment - this isn't just about trees, it is about measured heat loading and contrasts.

If you are interested in participating in such a project, check out Wicked Hot Mystic, which is actively recruiting people to do those heat measurements in the next couple of months.

Also important to note: the most deaths happen when cities that have never seen lethal heat suddenly experience it for the first time - the 2018 Heatwave in Quebec is an absolute warning for Burlington, VT.

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Malcolm X Park, Horatio Harris Park, the park in front of the African-American art museum, the old town common at John Eliot Square, Highland Park (Fort Hill), and of course Franklin Park.

A walk or bike ride down Walnut Avenue, one of Boston's less appreciated pretty streets, passes a number of these places.

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Compare to Somerville, where there is tree cover over a great deal of the sidewalks and streets. That's what's going to give you the best heat reduction (in terms of greenspace placement, at least).

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A lot of trees in the area between Davis and Ball Squares, and on Spring Hill and Winter Hill. Not so many in Ward 2 (the flat area adjoining Cambridge) or East Somerville.

I love our street trees, but I wish we had some of Roxbury's parks. The development of Somerville left very little room for open space.

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as Boston has quite a bit of parkland, scattered throughout the neighborhoods.

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I wonder whether that is part of what's creating such a strong contrast - read this again:

Neighborhoods with little tree cover, few grassy areas and a lot of concrete can be as much as 15 to 20 degrees hotter than the surrounding areas.
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I long noticed the temperature drop on a hot night when biking into my area - and verified it once I had a car that measured outside temperature. 5 degree drop in a half mile.

But that doesn't make it any cooler in the neighborhoods where my sons moved to.

Nor does it fix the cherry red pavement nightmare of the high school.

MAPC has some good landsat data/photos where you can see what is going on; https://www.mapc.org/resource-library/extreme-heat/

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It was interesting.

Of course, I notice that a lot of the region is in moderate to low territory, but man, I would not want to be in Lynn or Chelsea in the summer.

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There isn't any discussion of the influence of the sea breeze in the Boston area. The sea breeze has a huge effect on the heat island for areas close to the water. This extends to areas facing south moderately far from the water and not blocked by buildings. Look at the difference between Cambridge and Boston along the Charles. Other areas benefit from the sea breeze due to elevation.

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Prevailing wind direction is blowing east.

But, again, anecdata << actual data. Check out the MAPC link - you can "see" the differences from space, and these are being ground-truthed through citizen science programs.

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I live very close to the heat island at the end of Boston on the little tail of Boston between Dedham and Milton in HP. There is a heat island there and it is all the tracks and industrial area, which also is less treed than other neighborhood per the website that you can look at the tree status by census block.

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Eliminate parking minimums so that new development does not result in ripping out trees to build surface parking.

Remove all current surface parking lots.

On streets with narrow sidewalks and no trees, replace every nth parking space with a tree.

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The Museum of Science and the Mystic River Watershed Association are currently recruiting volunteers to measure heat in the Mystic River watershed area on foot, by bike, and in cars.

Information here: https://www.mos.org/explore/public-events/wicked-hot-mystic

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I’ll pass on to a friend who lives near the Mystic.

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