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Urban Heat Island Effect: A Study of Temperature Variations in New York City

The global climate is fast changing owing to a variety of factors. This could be due to global warming, the greenhouse effect, deforestation, and other factors. Large cities, such as New York City, are facing an expanding environmental catastrophe known as Urban Heat Island (UHI). The term urban heat island (UHI) refers to the localized increase in temperature within urban areas when compared to nearby rural areas. This influence is primarily due to human activity and the built landscape.

During our field trip, we measured the air and land surface temperatures around Columbus Park. We took temperature readings from four different surfaces: pavement, cement, dirt, and grass. The temperature was taken in the sun as well as in the shade. The temperature was measured about 4:30 p.m. that day, when the weather was a little cold and gloomy, and it was 18.3 degrees celsius. The average temperature of the pavement in direct sunlight was 19.3 degrees Celsius, and 19.1 degrees Celsius in shade. The cement averaged 18.93 degrees Celsius in the sun and 16.3 degrees Celsius in the shade. Furthermore, we noticed that in both the sun and the shade, dirt and grass had a lower average temperature. We discovered that the dirt had an average temperature of 14.73 degrees Celsius in the sun and 14.3 degrees Celsius in the shade. At the same period, grass had an average temperature of 14.5 degrees Celsius in the sun and 13.4 degrees Celsius in the shade.

After taking all of the readings, we determined that the pavement and cement had the highest temperature. This is due to concrete’s high thermal mass and low thermal resistance. Concrete absorbs heat and releases it at a lower rate. At the same time, the pavements are quite dark, making it difficult for sunlight to reflect off of them. Pavements reflect extremely little sun radiation as compared to the absorption ratio. Dirt and grass, on the other hand, had the lowest average temperature in both sun and shade. When compared to artificial surfaces, dirt and grass have poorer thermal conductivity and heat capacity. This implies they don’t hold heat as well and can cool down faster. Soil and grass could hold moisture, which aids in cooling via evaporation.

There are about 420 skyscrapers in New York City alone, and viewing the city’s lights and surroundings from one of the city’s tallest buildings is mesmerizing. However, because they are made of materials such as concrete, steel, and glass, these structures contribute to UHI. These materials have a very high thermal mass. During the day, these materials absorb and store heat for extended periods of time. At night, these materials slowly release the stored heat into the environment, resulting in high nighttime temperatures.

The city’s lack of green space is another factor contributing to UHI in NYC. Some may argue that New York City has many parks and 5.2 million trees. However, New York City is a huge and dense urban area, and the parks are not evenly distributed which contributes to UHI.  Air conditioning is another major component of our daily lives that contributes to UHI, especially during the summer. By moving warm air from within to outside, air conditioning cools our home or space. When numerous air conditioners are running at the same time during the summer, the outdoor temperature rises substantially.  The huge number of Asphalt and concrete roadways, as well as parking lots in NYC, contribute to the rise in UHI in New York City. Asphalt and concrete may store absorbed heat for a long time. The UHI in New York City is 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit, which is approximately 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the surrounding locations.

High temperatures may worsen pre-existing conditions and produce a wide range of health issues, including heat-related illnesses. Because of the increased use of air conditioning and cooling systems when temperatures rise, energy consumption also rises. This creates a vicious cycle of environmental degradation, rising electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions. The UHI effect in cities can be reduced by planting more trees and other plants, constructing green walls, and installing green roofs. Cool roofs, which reflect lighter and hold less heat, should be utilized more frequently. Green infrastructure, environmentally friendly urban planning, and public awareness campaigns can all help NYC progress toward a more resilient and sustainable future.

During our field trip, we discovered that UHI causes to temperature increases of up to 9.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the pavement and cement is higher because they absorb and keep heat for a long period, whereas the earth and grass are generally cooler since they do not retain heat for a long time.

image: https://www.eartheconomics.org/newsroom/urbanheatislands

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