Roanoke's Heat Island Mapping

In August 2020, Roanoke was one of 13 cities in national study of urban heat island effect. The City’s Office of Sustainability partnered with Climate Adaptation Planning Analytics (CAPA) to complete an Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign, a nationwide citizen-science based effort to collect local data on temperatures and humidity levels across the City.

Volunteer teams took to the streets on specially equipped bikes and cars to find out where it’s hottest—and where residents might be most vulnerable to extreme urban heat. These local organizers collected thousands of temperature and humidity data points in the morning, after-noon, and evening of a long, hot campaign day on August 10th, 2020 (map of evening route shown below).

Urban Heat Mapping Campaign

Heat Island Interactive Map of Roanoke

CAPA Strategies analyzed the data and provided the City a report of its urban heat signature, including a map showing the pattern of heat variation. You can use the interactive map below to find your home, place of work, or favorite park in the City and compare the heat throughout the day to your personal experience

Questions to think about when viewing the interactive map:

1. Does your own experience with heat in these areas align with the map?

2. What about the landscape (trees, concrete buildings, riverside walkway) do you think might be influencing the heat in this area?

3. If your home is located in a red zone, what do you think could be done to cool your yard or neighborhood? 

Results of the Study

The study used over 30,000 data points and found a variation in temperature of 15 degrees F across the City, with the temperatures highest in downtown and low-income neighborhoods. Heat concentrated by the density of buildings and concrete in the downtown area appear to warm the surrounding residential areas as well. The temperatures were lowest in the parks and shaded residential areas.

Next Steps

  • Social Vulnerability- Using data from the study and demographic information to explore the intersection of urban heat and social vulnerability to better understand the needs of our community 
  • Built Environment Scenarios- Looking at the effect on heat of changing the built environment, such as increased paving versus greening on the scale of a city block
  • Growing Shade- Identifying where expanding tree canopy would have the most direct benefit to social and environmental conditions (see the image below for more benefits of urban trees, from The State of our Waters 2021)
Benefits of Urban Trees