Boston Neighborhoods Feel The "Urban Heat Island Effect"

Northeast U.S. Bakes Under Summer Heat Wave

Photo: Getty Images

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — It's no secret New England has been feeling the heat this summer, and it isn't just here. In fact, new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows at least 43 locations across the U.S. set or tied for their hottest July on record. Over the last decade, Boston experienced more hot days and nights than any decade in the previous 50 years. Even if major action is taken to reduce emissions, the number of days in Boston over 90°F will increase from a historical average of 10 days per year to as many as 46 days per year by the 2070's.

Massachusetts has seen two major heat waves this summer, with Heat Emergencies declared in the city of Boston both times. The city of Boston has now released a new report, as part of a citywide framework to address hotter summers and an increasing number of dangerous heat events.

The heat plan, Heat Resilience Solutions for Boston, builds on the 2016 Climate Ready Boston plan, which aims to tackle the long-term effects of climate change.

"Heat threatens the health and well-being of our residents, of our infrastructure, and our environmental justice communities like right here in Chinatown as especially vulnerable." Mayor Michelle Wu said during a press conference.

Chinatown is just one of the Boston neighborhoods considered to be a 'Heat Island.' Other communities include Dorchester, East Boston, Roxbury and Mattapan. Urban Heat Islands occur in areas with a lot of buildings, asphalt, pavements, and things like dark roofs. These structures absorb the sun's heat and actually release heat back into the community on hot days. People living in these communities have higher rates of heat related illness and injuries. What's more it can cost more to cool down their homes.

"Extreme heat certainly affects everyone, it disproportionately harms those communities that are more vulnerable, where the residents are more likely to be Black or Latinx or non-U.S. born immigrants or lower income." Boston Health Commissioner Dr. Bisola Ojikutu said. As the city of Boston attempts to tackle climate change, Dr. Ojikutu said larger systemic inequities need to be addressed.

"We really have to think more broadly in how people are living and what types of housing they have access to." She said.

The heat plan lays out more than a dozen strategies organized into two sections, relief during heat waves and creating cooler communities, and includes both long-term and short-term initiatives. These short-term steps include distributing popup cooling kits to organizations that host outdoor events during the summer and a cool roof grant program to help property owners research and install cool roofs. The plan also provides a implementation roadmap, including the launch of an interdepartmental Extreme Temperatures Response Task Force.

WBZ NewsRadio's Nichole Davis (@NicholeDWBZ) reports:

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