Snow isn’t supposed to melt in January, is it?

Really, it depends on where you live. While the January Minnesotan snow is still as fresh as always, in other states, snow is melting a little faster year by year. Due to increasingly warming weather, as recorded by CurrentResults, the temperature in January is getting warmer by the year, with metropolitan areas experiencing a much warmer temperature.

But why are metropolitan areas heating up, even in the usually frost-bitten January?

The Urban Heat Island Effect

The Urban Heat Island Effect

What causes the Urban heat Island effect

It is not uncommon for city people to experience a warmer temperature than people who live in less urbanized areas. People vacate the city to escape the summer heat, not the other way around.

While it is easy to blame the concrete-jungle phenomenon on climate change, the Urban Heat Island effect is the true cause behind cities’ slowly heating up.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the cause of the urban heat island effect is due to natural lands and canopies being replaced with a dense concentration of concrete pavement and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. This, in turn, accumulates into a heat pool that even the most powerful AC cannot subdue.

climate change
Global Warming heats up the Earth

How dangerous is the Urban Heat Island effect

Due to climate change, these cities are slowly being molded into a hellish oven, with us as the main course. Last year, under the record-breaking summer heat, the most vulnerable population in the U.S. was the first to fall. Indeed, the death toll reached a horrifying number of 116 in Oregon and 78 in Washington state, according to The Guardian, with people in affluent areas being the most affected.

Without human-caused climate change, these heat waves won’t be so fatal, as World Weather Attribution claimed. And it will keep getting hotter in the city if nothing is done.

Thankfully, the oldest conservation group in America has pinpointed the answer to this burning question – the Tree Equity Score by American Forests.

The Tree Equity Score

 Tree Equity Score achived
A green Street with the tree equity score

According to its inventor, American Forests, the Tree Equity Score is calculated to see whether the tree canopy and surface temperature are aligned with the income, employment rate, race, age, and health factors or not. In other words, it helps determine whether a neighborhood has a healthy enough tree cover. If it’s not, then the metric helps in deciding the natural landscape restoration in these neighborhoods.

Their research into the infrastructure in American cities reveals an astonishing fact: many affluent white neighborhoods have a very healthy canopy cover, which means the urban heat island effect is less intense in these areas. On the other hand, less fortunate and colored neighborhoods in the city have fewer tree covers, and thus are more vulnerable to heat during the hotter months of the year.

Why Tree Equity Score is important

lower greenhouse gas emissions
Tree equity lessens emissions in cities

The reason behind the Tree Equity Score is simple: to provide a tool for natural landscape restoration that exfoliates urban concrete jungles into greener patches, which will help offset the scorching effects of global warming. As pointed out in research conducted in Phoenix, AZ, tree-planting is a possible solution to offset the Urban Heat Island Effect.

By meeting the ideal metrics provided by the Tree Equity Score when planning infrastructure, city board planners can mitigate the urban heat island effect in their areas, thus partially sheltering their people against the increasingly deadly heatwaves.

A Non-U.S.-exclusive Metric:

green covering in american street

Despite its applications, the Tree Equity Score is only promoted in the US. At the moment, the American Forest is lobbying to adopt this metric in infrastructure planning on a national level. While successful, it will be some time before this metric becomes an integral part of infrastructure planning in the US. Meaning, it will take some time before this metric has any actual impact on the constantly exacerbating climate change.

Instead of waiting for change from the Northern Hemisphere, other countries can begin to adopt this metric to help themselves. There were approximately 5 million heat-related deaths last year globally, many in urban areas. The US isn’t the only country having to survive in an overheated world.

The formula to calculate the canopy needed for the ideal Tree Equity Score is as follows: Gap = Ideal Goal – Existing Canopies. The score can range from 0 to 100, with 100 meaning your neighborhood has achieved Tree Equity.

The positive effects of meeting the Tree Equity Score:

Hotan, China

– Cooler temperatures, thus fewer heat-related deaths: by meeting the Tree Equity Score, the typical concrete jungles are now less heat-absorbent. Trees are scientifically proven to lower the temperature by 7 degrees during the day and a whopping 22 degrees at night. Furthermore, they also purify air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions, making the air more breathable.

In developing countries, especially in heavily air-polluted cities like Hotan, China, or Ghaziabad, India, this is vital for people’s health.

a working arborist
an arborist

–  More job opportunities, thus improving the area’s economy: it is ideal to integrate the Tree Equity Score both into planning infrastructure, and adjusting pre-existing infrastructure. By increasing the tree canopy, cities will create more jobs in the urban forestry supply field, like arborists.

Plus, more trees means more shade, which equates to lower utility costs in shading buildings during the summertime.

– More trees mean bigger efforts to offset climate change: Tree-planting can offset the negative effects of global warming. By meeting the Tree Equity Score, we are reducing the Urban Heat Island Effect while effectively sequestering greenhouse emissions. Also, we don’t have to blast the AC at the lowest temperature all the time.

Final thought

In an age where rapid urbanization is emphasized, trees are an afterthought. With heat-related deaths on the rise due to the Urban Heat Island Effect, the world scrambles to soothe global warming.

With the introduction of the Tree Equity Score, now we have a metric to cool our cities down. But with all the red tape in its home country, we need to adopt this metric in infrastructural planning first.

Sustainable shopping

You, my dear, can also pitch in. While planting more trees in your neighborhood might be a herculean task, there are other things you can do. Thanks to your support every time you make a purchase via our smart shopping extension Tenere, our partnered projects with nonprofit environmental organizations, are planting more trees around the world to meet this ideal metric. Keep up the good work, and save your money and the planet, one purchase at a time.


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