If recent forecasts are correct, Hillsboro, Oregon is about to have the hottest day in history this Sunday. It is predicted to hit 112 degrees by Sunday afternoon and if it does the previous record of 108 degrees will be shattered. Not only that but we may have the hottest string of days ever recorded. Folks, that is HOT and it is only mid-June. The previous record was set in late July. The Herald wishes you all well as we face the specter of temperatures so hot that most of us will have to shut down our daily routines. The homeless, elderly, children, our pets, and those without Air Conditioning are all in peril from this heat.
Hillsboro Councilor Olyvia Alcaire posted this helpful real-time map on her FB page to guide those needing help to cooling centers around the City and surrounding area. See our map below:
One thing that has jumped out is the fact that Hillsboro is expected to be the hottest place in the Tualatin Valley. Maybe that is just our geography and maybe it is something more. One thing that is a distinct possibility is that the massive build-up of Industrial and Residential sites is having the undesired effect of creating Urban Heat Islands. Simply explained, large buildings with acres of parking that are placed on previously raw land have the effect of absorbing, storing, and off-putting heat for hours on end. That heat would have previously been absorbed by the soil and grass or trees that previously existed.
Asphalt can heat up at least 50 degrees hotter than grass and soils and the temperature of the air. So on a 100-degree day, a black asphalt temperature can be easily 150 degrees. Human skin burns at 131 degrees and will be destroyed at 161 degrees. Anyone living here knows that our city has experienced massive growth, much of which is parking lots. Most all of those are black asphalt. Add to that Cement, Metal, and black tar roofs and you have the makings for a Heat Island.
Have look at this aerial photo of the Industrial area, baseball stadium, and shopping facilities that have sprung up the last 15 years between Cornelius Pass and Brookwood.
The area outlined above is almost all parking lots and buildings. That area is 36,241,920 SF of land that was previously lush farmland covered with plants and crops that naturally absorbed and reflected the heat from the sun. These new surfaces are heating and storing all of that energy and it is a problem according to the best minds in science.
Professor Vivek Shandis at Portland State University has written several published studies on the topic of Heat Islands and what we must do to stop their harmful effects. He explains the phenomena as:
The phenomenon of higher temperatures in areas with a lot of buildings and pavement is known as the urban heat island effect.
Dr. Shandis led a study to determine what is going on relative to the Heat Islands right here in our Region. The Portland State study demonstrates how plants, trees, and reflective materials can reduce extreme heat in city neighborhoods. The study concluded after much research some possible solutions. Planting more vegetation, using reflective materials on hard surfaces, and installing green roofs on buildings can help cool potentially deadly urban heat islands. Something that we must do to prevent adding too much heat to our local areas.
“One of the biggest takeaways from this work is that in the places we live, work and play, the construction materials, colors, amount of roadways and greenery – decisions that are largely left to city planners – have an effect on the varying temperatures we experience in Portland,” Shandas said. “We have control over the design of our cityscapes. If summers are getting hotter, shouldn’t we be considering how different built designs impact local temperatures?”
His work and others concluded that urban heat islands are associated with higher pollution and negative health conditions, especially for the elderly, young children, and people with lower incomes. All very undesirable effects.
As we move ahead with dozens of more industrial buildings and thousands of homes. we must consider green roofs, reflective materials, and using lighter colored pavements or grass-crete roads and parking lots. This unique but by no means new concept includes using a polymer system for strength with spoil and grass in between. The result is a pervius grass road that can hold 10-ton vehicles and allow water through while staying cool and eliminating the heat island effect.
You can read more about cool roofs, cool walls, and cool pavement right here at Berkeley Labs website. They have a lot of great information and solutions available. The Herald has just reached out to the City of Hillsboro planning staff with a set of specific questions. We will amend the article and insert their comments when they come in. We hope to hear what requirements Hillsboro has, if any, and how we can work together as a community to curb this problem before our valley and town are past the point of no return.
It is to be noted that Urban Heat Islands are not directly tied to global warming but they do create more heat in the communities around them and that causes increase energy consumption and more smog. Both of those outcomes do cause global warming complications.
The City of Hillsboro has just passed mandatory energy scores on all homeowners with the goal to make our homes more efficient and to prevent overuse of energy. That is now a mandatory requirement if you sell a home. It seems highly appropriate that we exert the same level of concern on our corporate partners. The old ways of acres of black asphalt and tar roofs, the cheapest solutions, just are not going to work anymore. To be frank, we are paying these companies hundreds of millions of our taxpayer money to come here. There must be a quid-pro-quo of responsible construction. Hopefully, our current leadership will find a way to make that happen.
More to follow- this is of course food for thought. The facts and the science are self-evident. Urban Heat Islands are a problem and being approved and build right here in Hillsboro almost every day.
Find out more about these harmful Urban Heat Islands at https://www.climate.gov/news-features/features/climategov-tweet-chat-talk-heat-experts-mapping-urban-heat-islands
What is your take? Enter your comments below, share on Facebook or Instagram, and join the conversation.