King County begins heat mapping to figure out which communities suffer most in hot weather

VIDEO: Temperatures hit 90 for first time during pandemic

SEATTLE — As the temperature soared over 90 degrees on Monday, several cars drove through parts of King County with what looks like a snorkel.

The simple unit includes a heat sensor and GPS.

Three times during the day, volunteers drove designated routes, taking surface temperature readings every second.

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“Heat is not going to impact communities the same way,” said Jamie Stroble of the King County climate action team.

The heat mapping project will figure out those differences.

Topography, tree coverage, and the amount of pavement can all affect temperatures and how much a place cools off at night.

Researchers took readings on the hottest day so they can better see contrasts between neighborhoods.

The work will be more important as the planet warms from human-caused climate change.

“Hotter temperatures will affect our health increasing the risk of illness and death from heat stroke and cardiovascular disease,” said Lara Whitely Binder, climate preparedness specialist for King County.

County officials say research shows older adults, children, and people with low incomes and chronic health conditions suffer most in the heat.

They say producing a heat map will help decide where to plant more trees, do energy-efficient retrofits and open cooling centers and spray parks.

Several cities are doing heat mapping this summer.

Tacoma launched a similar project last year.

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