The Real Story: Column by Dirk Knudsen
June 26th – June 28th were the three most miserable days of all time in Oregon. The “Heat Bubble” or “Heat Dome” as it came to be known, was so hot that the temperatures not only smashed the all-time heat record in our State but obliterated it. Businesses shut down, dozens died, and the economy ground to a halt. Crops were damaged, and people and animals alike suffered as never before. It truly was hell on earth.
Read the story at https://www.koin.com/news/environment/portlands-new-normal-can-we-expect-more-deadly-heat-waves/
During that time, the Herald went out into the Hillsboro community using a digital thermometer and measured the temperatures at some of our local businesses, streets, and public facilities. There is a phenomenon in cities like Hillsboro where all of the roads, massive buildings, and parking lots we have built create the Heat Island effect. It simply means that we have built such massive infrastructure that we are creating a battery that holds more heat than normal and emits it into the atmosphere. This is causing our city’s climate to warm beyond normal atmospheric conditions.
Heat Islands are a real thing, and it is not political kickball. They exist, and they are warming the climate. In a city like Hillsboro, which talks a good game on the environment, one would expect we are making moves to protect our people and the environment. But that would be a faulty assumption. Despite rules on the books requiring shade trees in parking lots, Hillsboro officials have offered waivers where more parking was needed. Buildings can be required to have special roofs and materials, but we aren’t doing that either. Lighter-colored roofs and parking lots painted light colors can make a difference of up to 40 degrees. In sunnier climates like Phoenix, roads are built from white or very light asphalt INTEL in Chandler has gone to super light colors and reflective materials.
Read More About Heat Islands Here On the EPA website – Heat islands are urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than other areas. Structures such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes such as forests and water bodies. Urban areas, where these structures are highly concentrated and greenery is limited, become “islands” of higher temperatures relative to outlying areas. Daytime temperatures in urban areas are about 1–7°F higher than temperatures in outlying areas and nighttime temperatures are about 2-5°F higher. Find more information on the Learn About Heat Islands page.
At night the North Industrial areas of Hillsboro can emit heat well into the morning. That heat can hang over our valley and keep areas over and downwind of the Heat Island up to 7 degrees warmer. That is significant. Anyone who has seen the 1,350 parking spaces at Huffman and Brookwood should be thinking about this now. That Amazon delivery center is just 1 of 20 massive buildings going up right now in that one area. So hot days over 90 degrees are going to really create some massive heat increases.
Asphalt and cement can burn the skin of a child or person eat 125 degrees. At 150 degrees, which we proved is far below the top temperature possible, severe burns will happen. At 160 degrees, asphalt will start to liquefy, which we witnessed during the Heat Bubble of 2021. On those days in 2021, we took a highly accurate digital thermometer out into Hillsboro in that heat and took readings and filmed our findings. It was very eye-opening.
Our video below clearly demonstrates that a shaded street will be at or below the ambient air temperature and that unshaded will be as much as 65 degrees over the air temperature. All that heat and energy from the sun is stored in Millions of acres of parking and released all night into the climate after the sun goes down, making it almost impossible for the atmosphere to cool off. Buildings are the same and heat up almost as much as asphalt.
We found temperatures as high as 169 degrees during the heat dome. We also checked white painted areas, stone, brick, stucco, and light concrete vs. dark asphalt. Various materials had a difference of up to 60 degrees. Grass was the best surface, followed by white and light cement materials and lighter colored walls. Then brick and darker asphalt. The darker the asphalt, the hotter it was. Heat Islands in Hillsboro are a problem now and at the rate we are building, they promise to be a terrible problem in the very near future.
Why care? Well, here are some reasons.
Heat Island Impacts
Here in Hillsboro, we force owners of residential homes to pay for an energy audit before they are allowed to sell their homes. Failure to comply leads to fines. But the same planners and City Councilors that pushed this controversial code change through have not done anything about heat islands and their effects. By now, we should have learned our lessons. And if you wonder why things are getting hotter in our world, look no further than the points outlined and proven in this story. We need to plan better and be smarter. And we need to stop rolling over to developers or others who want or need a break.
Now check out our findings on video. We are heating up friends, and we are doing it to ourselves; your input is needed.