How Trees Keep us From Boiling Alive

Not “literally” boiling us alive but, hey, I needed a clickbait title. Besides, during these humid, hot, days doesn’t it feel a bit like we’re all lobsters in a tank?

But I’ve got a challenge for you all – if you have a thermometer (a candy thermometer, cooking thermometer, laser thermometer or even that thermometer on your deck) try moving it around on the next hot day. Check out what the difference is between the sun and the shade.

When it’s so hot and humid it might feel like the shade offers barely any relief, but that’s just the air temperature. Surfaces can get much, much hotter.

There has been a push to consider trees as infrastructure, and summertime brings great demonstrations of the effects healthy, intact urban trees can have on our human lives. Never mind that trees filter air, produce oxygen, or that a single tree takes 48 pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere every year. Setting all those benefits aside, let’s look just at the tangible ways trees shield you from the heat.

As you’ll see in this article from WHAS11 News in Kentucky, it’s simple enough to take a thermometer and scan your environment. But try to find two areas like the pictures above – one with trees covering the street and buildings and one with no trees. On the same day in the same city these two areas can measure drastically different temperatures. Asphalt can have over a 60 degree difference – from 80°F to 145°F! Which one would YOU rather walk your dog on?

So as development threatens older trees, and many young trees are planted incorrectly, it’s important to take a moment and appreciate how much hotter we would all be feeling with our big green friends.

For resources on how to make sure a tree is planted correctly go to the Arbor Day Foundation.

Blog Author: Meg Hennessey, Watershed Coordinator

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