With streets, roads and parking lots receiving the direct rays of the sun, asphalt and other street construction materials heat up quickly and can get extremely hot. Extreme street temperatures can cause harm, particularly to pets and other animals that have no protection for their paws. Humans also feel the heat as they walk along sidewalks or roads that are unprotected from the sun’s rays. Walking a dog should be avoided during these hot times. Health departments often recommend staying indoors or in shade to avoid excessive heat exposure.
Asphalt, concrete, glass and other building materials absorb radiation from the sun and reflect it back as heat. This literally makes cities hotter than a surrounding countryside, a phenomenon known as the “heat island effect.” Add to it cars, air conditioners, machinery and other heat-generating components and cities can indeed get very hot, dangerously hot.
One method cities use to combat this is to plant shade trees and to protect existing trees from being cut down. By their shade, large-canopy trees cool cities down by a few degrees and help make being outdoors a little more tolerable during hot, sunny days.
Taken during a heat wave with air temperatures well into the 90s, a comparison of infrared thermometer readings of a sunny street and a shady street show a marked difference in street surface temperatures. The shady street temperature reading was 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s hot. But, the sunny street surface temperature was measured at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s significantly hotter!
Trees that shade buildings keep air conditioning expenses down along with protecting property from ultraviolet radiation that wears away materials. They protect the streets, cars and property from damage caused by excessive heat.
The benefits of shade trees should not be underestimated when it comes to protecting us from the sun during the hot days of summer. It takes many years for a tree to grow to a size that will provide adequate shade. The removal of larger trees should not be taken lightly. Careful consideration should be given if tree removal is necessary. We often take their presence for granted and do not realize their value until someone has cut them down.
So, next time you walk down a shady street during a hot day, keep in mind what it would be like without the protection of its shielding canopy and be glad that you’re in the shade!