Forecasting Change: The Urban Heat Island effect and how to beat the heat

Here’s some steps to cool major cities

Temperature varies with land use.
Temperature varies with land use.

ORLANDO, Fla – If you live in Central Florida, chances are you have found a way to cope with the heat and humidity. For most it is just a part of life, and we really do not ever want to leave.

But have you ever heard the term “heat island?” A heat island is an area that holds heat because of its structures, infrastructure and population. In other words, an area that is hotter than the surrounding areas because of development.

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Neighborhoods in highly developed areas can expect temperatures that can be up to 20 degrees warmer than nearby areas with more trees and less concrete or pavement.

This graphic below shows the average difference for Orlando and its surrounding areas.

Intensity score for Orlando

As bad as the Orlando score is, it still doesn’t touch the 7.2 degree difference Miami has. Keep in mind the score considers building heights, air conditioners, driveways, sidewalks, roads, and parking lots.

Miami has mile upon mile of high rises that push its score higher. For comparison, the city of Chicago also has a heat island index of 7.2 degrees.

Heat island intensity score for Miami

But even in Gainesville, the score is impressive. Gainesville is not as high as Orlando or Miami, but it is still sporting a difference of almost six degrees from the outlying zones.

Gainesville intensity score

Steps to make the scores lower include planting more trees, building cool roofs that reflect the suns energy, using cooler pavements, or whitewashing roads and sidewalks to make them absorb less energy from the sun.

The average temperature this week in Orlando is 92. That average will be with us for about six weeks.


About the Author:

Tom Sorrells is News 6's Emmy award winning chief meteorologist. He pinpoints storms across Central Florida to keep residents safe from dangerous weather conditions.