Blog posted On September 05, 2018
After an exceptionally hot summer, urban planners are investigating more ways to reduce temperatures in cities around the country. Because of the “heat island” effect, urban areas tend to be 10 to 20 degrees hotter than surrounding rural areas. AccuWeather Expert Senior Meteorologist, Tom Kines, explains, “it’s kind of like a brick fireplace; even when the fire goes out, the heat is still in the bricks. This is the same thing in a city.”
Residents in Dallas, Texas are taking their own steps to beat the heat in their city. Volunteers in Oak Cliff have planted 500 trees out of their 1,000-tree goal in support of a project dubbed Cool and Connected Oak Cliff. Dallas is one of the fastest-warming cities in the country, despite the fact that it’s located within the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest. On average, Dallas has 29% tree canopy coverage, with some vulnerable neighborhoods averaging less than 10%. Tree canopies can reduce temperature by as much as 15 degrees, pushing urban temperatures closer to suburban and rural counterparts.
Planting more trees in urban areas has additional benefits besides just cooling things down. Tree lines provide a buffer between streets and sidewalks, making it safer for pedestrians to walk or bike along roadways. In addition to serving as a physical barrier, drivers view tree-lined roads as a signal to slow down. Tree coverage has also been linked to health benefits. Areas where it is safer for pedestrians to walk encourage physical activity and playground usage.
Following success in Oak Cliff, the volunteers hope to continue planting trees across other Dallas neighborhoods suffering from a lack of tree coverage. Laura Huffman, the Nature Conservancy’s state director in Texas, praised the work of the volunteer groups in Dallas. She said, “part of what we’re doing in this work is generating the science to connect the dots between trees and vegetation and mental health and well-being, and things like asthma.