HOUSTON – Houston can get really hot but how hot, exactly? It depends on where you live.
Data collected by the Houston Harris Heat Action Team (H3AT) suggests that there is a significant difference in temperatures in neighborhoods across the Bayou City.
On August 7, 2020, H3AT— a collaboration between Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), the City of Houston, Harris County Public Health (HCPH), and The Nature Conservancy of Texas (TNC)— held a one-day urban heat island mapping effort with the help of 84 community scientists. The effort was part of the 2020 Heat Watch program led by CAPA Strategies and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and resulted in a total of 320 square miles of Houston and Harris County being mapped by local residents.
The effort was designed to gauge whether Houston suffers from the heat island effect. According to the EPA, heat islands are urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than outlying areas. Structures such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes such as forests and water bodies. Urban areas, where these structures are highly concentrated and greenery is limited, become “islands” of higher temperatures relative to outlying areas. Daytime temperatures in urban areas are about 1–7°F higher than temperatures in outlying areas and nighttime temperatures are about 2-5°F higher.
In order to collect the data in Houston, participants attached specially-designed thermal sensors to their vehicles and traversed selected routes at three designated periods of time (6-7 a.m., 3-4 p.m., and 7-8 p.m.). In addition to over 230,000 temperature and humidity measurements collected throughout the day, the project partners also leveraged satellite imagery to model temperature and heat index values across the study area, city officials said.
According to city officials, the hottest point measured in Houston/Harris County on mapping day was 103.3 degrees Fahrenheit located just southwest of the Galleria on Richmond Avenue near the intersection of Chimney Rock Road. Compared to 86.2 degrees Fahrenheit located 20 miles to the east on Woodforest Blvd in Channelview, this data illustrates a 17.1-degree difference in temperature across Houston/Harris County at the same time of day. Afternoon heat index values were calculated from temperature and humidity measurements, reached unhealthy levels (above 108 degrees Fahrenheit) across Houston and Harris County.
A map shows some of Houston’s hottest areas include Pasadena, Aldine, Spring Valley, West University Place and Bunker Hill Village.