Exploring the Urban Heat Island Effect Within City Limits

During the summer months in New York City, you often hear people talking about plans to escape the city’s heat with trips to the beach or mountains. This is because NYC, like most large cities, is an urban heat island. With miles of paved surfaces that absorb heat, it is generally warmer than surrounding rural areas.

Within city limits, the temperature difference between an asphalt covered street and a nearby park lawn can demonstrate this phenomenon on a smaller scale. Below are some photos of measurements we made around midtown Manhattan at 2:30 PM this afternoon when the air temperature was 95°F.

On the street, the temperature was 122°F in the sun and 101°F in the shade. On the park lawn, only a few feet away, the temperature in the sun was 99°F and a relatively cool 85°F in the shade.  Hands down, the best place to beat the heat – even in the city – is on a grassy surface in the shade.  Stay cool!

Comparing temperatures of surfaces in sun and the shade around midtown Manhattan on July 29th.

Comparing temperatures of surfaces in the sun and the shade around midtown Manhattan on July 29th when the air temperature was 95°F .  Credit: The Weather Gamut.

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About Melissa Fleming

Melissa Fleming is an environmental communicator and visual artist working at the intersection of art and science. She is passionate about exploring, learning, and sharing information about the natural world. She has presented her interdisciplinary work in a variety of mediums at venues and conferences around the world.