HOUSTON – You know that it’s hot in Houston, but some neighborhoods under the same weather conditions can be 20 degrees hotter than a place just down the road.
A study conducted by city, county and non-profit groups found just how drastic the difference can be.
Last August, volunteers spent the day driving around the county measuring the temperature in the morning, afternoon and evening.
The results were calculated and released earlier this year.
H3AT: HEAT MAPPING CAMPAIGN
URBAN HEAT ISLANDS
You can see the darker the color, the hotter the temperatures.
KPRC 2 HEAT ISLAND
This map created by the group shows KPRC 2 on its own heat island.
“We know the problem is there, did we know why?” asked KPRC2 Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley.
“So, urban heat islands are when you have warmer temperatures surrounded by cooler temperatures. And those warmer temperatures are made possible when you have a lot of heat being given off,” said Meredith Jennings of Houston Advanced Research Center. She added, “And a lot of heat being absorbed. So areas with buildings, a lot of streets, little tree-cover, those are what tend to drive urban heat.”
GULFTON NEIGHBORHOOD: 17 DEGREE DIFFERENCE
In Harris County, you can feel the temperature difference just blocks apart in the Gulfton neighborhood.
The neighborhood is off Chimney Rock in southwest Houston. It’s one of the hottest neighborhoods in this study. When you look around, there is asphalt and concrete and lots of cars radiating heat. Also, there are several apartment complexes with small box-window air conditioning units. Those units help the inside of the apartment, but it generates heat on the outside. Additionally, the roofs are dark.
Just a few blocks away at Burnett Bayland Park, is where kids come to play and escape the heat. The trees provide some shade and a little breeze.
DRASTIC TEMPERATURES IMPACT HEALTH AND MONEY
This heat difference is more than just an inconvenience. It impacts health and money.
“If you have that fixed income and you go from having $150 electric bill monthly, and it goes up to $250, that means that extra $100 has to come from somewhere. Is it going to come from food, transportation?” said Dr. Robert Bullard, professor of urban planning and environmental policy at Texas Southern University.
These same communities tend to have more health problems and it’s only made worse by the heat.
“In terms of asthma rates, for example, and other respiratory illnesses, diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular issues,” said Bullard.
SUNNYSIDE - SUNSHINE AND HOT TEMPERATURES
In Sunnyside, on a blazing hot day -- neighbors are using grassroots efforts to turn their heat island into a small oasis.
Efrem B. Jernigan, President of the South Union CDC, hosts a summer camp for children in the area.
He’s teaching the next generation how to harness the power of that heat and the sun.
“We want to get the word out as far as we can,” said Jernigan.
The children spent all summer learning about renewable energy like solar power.
LANDFILL TURNED INTO SOLAR FARM
Down the road, the city has plans to turn the Sunnyside landfill into a solar farm.
“Sunnyside is one of those examples where they’ve been able to capture the imagination of a bad situation,” said Bullard.
Experts tell us the biggest change we can make is how we build our cities.
“How our communities are designed plays a role in how temperature is felt,” said Jennings.