May 13, 2022 - News

Raleigh's heating up and it's affecting lower-income people

Temperature change in Raleigh since first Earth Day in 1970
Data: Climate Central/RCC-Acis.org/NCEI; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

The Raleigh-Durham area is nearly 4 degrees warmer now than it was in 1970, according to climate change research organization Climate Central.

  • That's a much larger jump than the rest of the state or country.

What's happening: Parking lot and road construction in the area have contributed to the loss of tree canopy which have created urban heat islands.

Between the lines: Heat isn't distributed evenly across Triangle neighborhoods.

  • Wealthier areas, which typically have more trees, are often several degrees cooler than lower-income neighborhoods, per a study from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association.
  • The study found that in Raleigh there is a maximum temperature difference of 9.6 degrees between some areas, and in Durham the difference is 10.4 degrees, according to WUNC.

Of note: In 2020, the Durham City Council acknowledged its history of planting more trees in right-of-ways of white neighborhoods than its Black-majority ones, Indy Week reported. In response, the council passed a plan to plant more trees across the city.

What they're saying: "There's a clear temperature difference between these areas today that are tied to decisions made in the past," Myleigh Neill, of the North Carolina State Climate Office, told WRAL earlier this year.

  • "When we talk about extreme heat, it's not only a climate issue, but it's also a social and economic justice issue as well."
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