New map shows some parts of Spokane are much hotter than others

SPOKANE, Wash.– We now know which Spokane neighborhoods are most affected by heat waves. Results for the Spokane Beat the Heat project were published on Thursday. The project’s goal is to find areas impacted most by the urban heat effect and help local leadership make decisions on how to keep people in those areas safe. 19 people died in Spokane due to the record-setting June 2021 heat wave.

On July 16th, 2022 40 volunteers drove around the city with weather instruments to map heat in the morning, afternoon, and evening. The official temperatures in Spokane that day were a low of 58° and a high of 88°.  The study found temperatures as high as 94° in North Spokane that day and temperatures as cool as 85° during the hottest part of the afternoon. Downtown, West Central, Emerson/Garfield, and most neighborhoods east of Division Street were the most consistently hot neighborhoods at all hours of the day.

comparing the hottest to coldest neighborhoods in the spokane beat the heat campaign: West Central hit 94 degrees while Manito only reached 85 degrees.

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map showing hot spots in spokane in red and cool areas in blue

via Gonzaga, CAPA

The difference in temperature from the coolest to the warmest part of the city was 14° on what was a pretty average summer day. During a heat wave, such a disparity could be the difference between bearable and unbearable stress on the body. Most of the deaths in the 2021 heat wave happened in these hotter regions of the city.

The difference in temperature from neighborhood to neighborhood comes down to one thing: the ratio between concrete, pavement, and trees. Tree cover on the South Hill is as high as 44 percent, the most in the city. It is no coincidence that this is where it’s coolest during the afternoon. Meanwhile, neighborhoods east of Division Street are almost all under 20 percent tree coverage and are some of the hottest residential areas.

the percentage of tree cover in green, with areas under 20 percent coverage in gray

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Naghmana Sherazi with the Lands Council says this disparity in tree cover is an equity issue. The lower-income neighborhoods in Northeast Spokane either don’t have the space or money to think about planting trees, she says. It’s why the Lands Council and the City of Spokane are planting hundreds of trees each year under the SpoCanopy program. Spocanopy’s goal is to bring tree cover to these neighborhoods, says Sherazi, not just to provide more shade but to also filter the air, increase property value, and improve the overall environment. Their longer-term goal is to take tree cover in Spokane from 23 to 40 percent by 2030 by planting trees in these hotter neighborhoods.

Beyond trees, the data from this project could lead to more strategically placed cooling shelters and give a full picture of who is most at risk when the next heat wave comes. As said by Kara Odegard, Sustainability Manager for Spokane City Council; “This work will save lives.”

RELATED: ‘Spokane Beat the Heat’ campaign launched to help people understand heat waves