‘Wicked Hot Boston' Study to Find Warmest Spots in City

The Museum of Science has enlisted the help of dozens of volunteers to map the hottest spots in the Greater Boston area during this week's heat wave.

In cities, hot weather is magnified by what is known as the "urban heat island" effect, which essentially means that the city's buildings and streets retain more heating than rural parts of the state. Now, researchers want to know which locations get the hottest and display them on a map.

"Our maps are going to show you, neighborhood by neighborhood, where in downtown Boston is a hot spot, what areas are hot and what areas are cooler," explained Sara Benson, who has been helping leading the "Wicked Hot Boston" study.

With the help of local residents, Benson and her team will be able to collect temperature data from Boston, Brookline and Cambridge.

Using sensors attached to their car windows, volunteers who live in these communities will drive along a designated route during three different hours of the day when the temperature is at least 90 degrees. The sensors will measure the ambient temperature of a particular area they have been assigned.

"Right now, [cities] know some areas are hotter, but they want to know why they're hotter," Benson said. "And they want to know what they can do to cool it down."

The result will give cities an idea of what parts of their community may need more green space, trees or fewer buildings to stay cool. Currently, spots like the Boston Common's Frog Pond are popular on warm days because of the trees and water. Benson expects they will soon be able to identify more locations that could benefit from a similar design.

"They're going to be able to create a better plan to know exactly what they should plant there," Benson explained. "They can see where they should put a tree, or maybe they can just put some green space there."

The museum plans to unveil their findings and maps in September. Other cities across the country, including Worcester, are also taking part in this project led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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