What Causes the Heat in Houston and Harris County? 

Houston and Harris County are no strangers to hot weather, and they have both continued to get warmer in recent years. Even within the Greater Houston Area, there are some communities that are warmer than others. This is due to something called the “Urban Heat Island Effect”.  

This is especially evident in cities. Cities are often hotter than suburbs since they tend to be more built up. Things like asphalt, black pavement, concrete, and many tall buildings that are close together all absorb and store heat, causing temperatures to increase by a few degrees.  

There are many ways to try and combat the urban heat island effect. This includes planting more trees and creating more green spaces, like parks. Trees send water to the atmosphere and help cool things off, along with providing shade to people. Using light colors and heat-absorbing materials, such as light-colored “cool” roofs and “cool” pavements can also help cool surfaces.  

Fenceline, vulnerable, and low-income communities are also disproportionately impacted as they often lack green spaces or cannot afford air conditioners; making them more vulnerable to heat waves. When we know that heat waves tend to kill more people than any other extreme weather event, finding ways to combat and mitigate the heat island effect becomes a very important priority for our society.  

To find out more about the urban heat island effect, watch the two videos from NPR and Grist below.

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Funding for this project provided by the Inflation Reduction Act and the USDA Forest Service, Urban and Community Forestry Program. 

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