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Report: Climate Change Makes Urban Neighborhoods Hotter

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Friday, January 24, 2020   

BALTIMORE - This time of year, it's hard to think about summer heat waves, but a new report says Baltimore and other big cities should prepare for them.

The study of more than 100 U.S. cities found a correlation between rising temperatures and poor neighborhoods. It pinpoints areas with a history of racial "red-lining" - where banks and mortgage lenders make it harder to invest.

In Baltimore, red-lined neighborhoods experience temperatures nearly 6 degrees hotter than the citywide average, says Jeremy Hoffman - report coauthor and chief scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia.

"With the changing climate, that means that these red-lined communities probably are at the front lines of a changing climate and the need to be more resilient in the future," says Hoffman.

Hoffman points out that wealthier areas have more trees and shade, while in poor areas, urban blacktop bakes in the sun and retains heat through the night.

The report found the most extreme temperature differences in red-lined neighborhoods of Chattanooga, Tennessee - followed closely by Baltimore.

The researchers found on a summer day in 2016, that while the temperatures in Baltimore's lower-income neighborhoods soared, the more affluent areas were nearly 4 degrees cooler than the citywide average.

Hoffman says one simple solution is for lower-income areas to change the colors of streets and sidewalks to better reflect the sun's radiation.

"If we make good decisions today and include these communities in figuring out what to do next, we can be, you know, reasonably sure that 100 years from now, people will be looking back in a positive way," says Hoffman.

Climate change is already expected to increase the number of serious heat waves in the United States in the coming years, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.


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