We are in an Urban Heat Island (UHI) along Fidelity

One half-hour after midnight on August 14, 2021 the surface temperature of a tombstone  in the Davie graveyard was 96˚! By then the overall air temperature in town had cooled to 81˚, following an overall Carrboro high temperature of 96˚ that afternoon. So the tombstones in this graveyard add to the heating of air, on top of the heating by the cemetery’s driveways. In fact, at 3:00pm on September 14 (when the high temperature was 90˚) the air temperature in front of that tombstone was over 2˚ warmer than the air temperature 50 yards away in the middle of the adjacent meadow. So on a sunny day the tombstones in the cemetery can heat up Carrboro’s air just like the parking lots in front of the gym, next to Town Hall, and in Inara Court. Along Fidelity we are already living in a UHI that stretches from those parking lots down to the parking lots and roofs in 400 Davie.  Introducing more structures, pavement, and tombstones into the meadow will reduce its current cooling effect for Hillmont and 400 Davie Road. This cooling effect will also be lost for the rest of Fidelity Street, since the meadow is usually upwind from these other densely populated areas.

Key Finding #2, on PDF p.54,  of the Comprehensive Plan’s Environment chapter on notes that “Extreme heat was the leading cause of weather-related deaths from 2000 to 2009 and degrades air quality.” A top goal of the Plan, on PDF p.13 said “The Town prioritizes strategies to increase the resilience for residents who are disproportionately impacted by climate change.” The affordable upstairs one bedroom apartments in Hillmont across Fidelity from the town-owned open green space do not have cross ventilation. Looking ahead as global warming increases, it is not hard to imagine a senior on limited income who can’t afford air conditioning becoming sick or even dying due to the lack of overnight cooling. Since the people whose health is most endangered by UHIs tend to be the marginalized members of our community, addressing this threat is an equity issue. Equity is supposed to be a foundational principle in our Comprehensive Plan.

Distributed accessible parks and open spaces can ameliorate a UHI problem, since piling large buildings next to each other can worsen the “warring air conditioners” effect. This happens when the heated air discharged by the air conditioning unit for one building increases the load on the air conditioning unit of an adjacent building, which creates an upward spiral by responding in kind. The $750,000 condos in Inara Court (behind the gym) recently replaced a grove of trees. Since the surfaces there are now almost entirely roofs or pavement it is not surprising that Inara’s driveway is now one of the hottest spots in Carrboro. The affordable one story brick apartment buildings next door at 106 Fidelity Street were sold recently, presumably for a paved-over development like Inara Court. These brick apartments are surrounded by twenty large pine trees that cool the air, as are the one story apartments at 114 and 116 Fidelity. As these apartments are replaced with condos similar to those in Inara Court the Fidelity neighborhood will need the cooling capacity of our open green space more than ever. Increases in temperatures that sound relatively small are actually a big deal when climate change and UHIs are studied. The anticipated global increase of 3˚F to 5˚F anticipated by 2050 is considered not only a threat to the global environment but also a dangerous escalation of the health risks of excessive heat. But differences as large as this have been measured between the exclusivity-zoned neighborhoods north of Main Street and the environmentally responsible multi-family housing neighborhoods south of Main Street!

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