When maps tell a story of heat and poverty

1 Heat Vulnerability Screen Shot 2019-09-09 at 6.41.13 PM

With temperatures rising, people are investigating how heat has an impact on various neighborhoods. The story on NPR last week, offered listeners and readers an opportunity to choose their city to study maps that pinpointed neighborhoods facing different levels of problems because of the heat.

These maps are kinetic, showing heat, and non-heat, although there are other maps dealing with other issues driven by heat. The still photo of Denver on this post shows one view of the “heat vulnerability” map included in a story in Denverite, a spin-off of a story on NPR.

“Those exposed to that extra heat are often a city’s most vulnerable: the poorest and, our data show, disproportionately people of color,” authors Meg Anderson and Sean McMinn wrote in the piece for NPR. Their focus is on Baltimore as an example of how heat affects neighborhoods in a city, as reflected on a young woman with asthma.

In Denver, when September rolled in with a bang, with incredible temperatures, it was plain that neighborhoods with abundant trees could rely on a certain amount of cooling because of the shade. Elsewhere, not so much.

There are occasional glitches in the theory, as the Denverite story points out, because of the changing nature of Denver, as single-family homes are being replaced by multi-family residential buildings expanding to take up the entire lot. The executive director of The Park People, Kim Yuan-Farrell, noted that gentrification can have an impact on the issue of whether wealthy residents plant more trees.

From the story: “…(Yuan-Farrell) also said things are more complicated than that. People who buy old homes in gentrifying neighborhoods, she said, may be likely to cut down old trees in yards when they scrape old houses to make room for new buildings. That could show thinner canopy coverage in changing areas. Her organization hasn’t done any formal study on the topic, but she believes redevelopment is ‘definitely a component.’ “

The maps developed for the NPR story go beyond vulnerability to heat to also include health issues and isolation. There also is an option to study the maps in Aurora and Colorado Springs as well as Denver. The methodology used to develop the maps is outlined at the end of the NPR story.

The links below lead to the Denverite story and the NPR story.




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