What the city is doing to combat urban heat islands to reduce high temperatures
Many programs offer free trees
SAN ANTONIO – Asphalt, new construction and concrete are all materials found in urban areas that can cause cities to become warmer than surrounding rural areas and create urban heat islands.
The higher temperatures are something that the Environmental Protection Agency recognizes and so does the city of San Antonio.
"Through concrete, through building materials that typically absorb heat in a way that holds it, (it) causes an increase temperature in its surroundings," said Ross Hosea, with the San Antonio Parks & Recreation Urban Forestry Program.
A 2014 study shows San Antonio can be anywhere between 2 and 14 degrees warmer than nearby rural areas, which can especially be felt during the South Texas summer.
So far this year, 16 days have hit 100 degrees or hotter, and 12 of those days were in a row.
The EPA said one of the main ways to combat urban heat islands is by planting more trees.
Hosea's job is to help find ways to keep trees in the city as it continues to grow. He said trees not only provide shade but also act as nature's air conditioner.
"Think of it as a small mister releasing mist, and then the wind catches it and cools the air around it," Hosea said. "It's the natural way the trees can cool the environment."
The EPA said trees can reduce city energy use, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance stormwater management and water quality.
"We understand we are a rapidly growing city, and with that development, there is a loss of trees," Hosea said. "We at the city try to do the best we can to increase our tree canopy throughout the city through a number of efforts."
About 9,000 trees are given away each year through the Adopt a Tree program.
The CPS Energy Green Shade Tree Rebate program allows residents to plant up to five trees and get a $50 rebate off their energy bill for each of the trees planted.
In the city's proposed Climate Action Plan, combating urban heat islands is one of the many strategies listed. Its purpose is to continue the city's current programs and also preserve open space and native ecosystems on publicly owned land in targeted areas.
City Council will vote on the Climate Action Plan on Oct. 16.
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