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Heat mapping project to highlight Oklahoma City’s hottest neighborhoods

NOAA Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaigns: All Locations, 2017-2023
NOAA
NOAA will work with citizen scientists to map urban heat islands in multiple cities and counties this summer. Since 2017, NOAA and its science partner, CAPA Strategies, have worked with more than 70 communities to create heat island maps that can be used to inform cooling strategies.

A community science project in Oklahoma City is launching a campaign to map out the effects heat islands have on the community. The urban heat island effect is when certain areas in a city experience higher temperatures than the suburbs or rural areas nearby.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, neighborhoods with fewer trees than pavement and buildings can be up to twenty-degrees hotter than nearby areas that have more trees and greenery.

Urban heat most affects marginalized communities, said Sarah Terry-Cobo, an associate planner for the city’s Office of Sustainability. Dr. Wenwen Cheng, the principal investigator of the Oklahoma City Heat Vulnerability Index and a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oklahoma told OU that residents of the JFK neighborhood east of downtown OKC mentioned concerns about air pollution and needs for trees and sidewalks in their neighborhood environment

The city is looking for 250-300 volunteers to help with the mapping project on Saturday August 12th. Volunteers will drive around the city with equipment on their cars that will measure air temperature and relative humidity as well as air quality.

Terry-Cobo said she expects to see Oklahoma City’s redlined areas hotter than other more affluent areas that have well managed tree canopies.

“Managing the tree canopy is huge. Tree folk say that the best tree is the one that was planted 20 years ago, and the next best tree is the one that you plant today,” she said. “Trees take a long time to grow and be able to establish shade and those cooling benefits that they have.”

The information gathered will be analyzed and turned into maps to show the hottest areas in Oklahoma City. Terry-Cobo said other potential solutions include building permanent and temporary cooling centers where people can hydrate and learn about best ways to keep cool and building shelters at bus stops that aren’t covered.

Sign up to volunteer at okc.gov.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Britny (they/them) reports for StateImpact Oklahoma with an emphasis on science and environment.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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