Cooling Out on the Town


For city dwellers, it often can seem that the best way to escape the summer heat is to hit the road. And, according to Climate Central, an organization of scientists studying climate change, they’d be right. The phenomenon known as the “urban heat island effect” is the reason why Chicago can be, on average, 3 degrees hotter than DeKalb, a small college town 65 miles away.

Our collective body heat is part of the problem, but so is our propensity to erect buildings with tons of glass, metal and concrete—materials that supercharge the sun’s rays only to later release them. But that doesn’t mean that urbanites are doomed to a life of water-soaked hats and SPF 1000. Beating the heat just means spending some more QT with Mother Nature.

Here are the chillest places in any urban heat island:

Parks: Cooling off in the city is literally a walk in the park. Parks are filled with trees and vegetation that perform a process called evapotranspiration, whereby high temps cause plants’ leaves to effectively sweat, resulting in a cooling effect. Between evapotranspiration and shade, greenery can keep surrounding areas up to 9°F cooler than the city itself. So if you’re ever sweating buckets on the way to work, do yourself  a favor and try taking the scenic route.

Ponds: If the thought of all that pee is preventing you from high-diving the heat away, don’t fret—you don’t even have to be in the pool to feel cool. Large bodies of water like ponds, oceans and lakes require about four and half times more energy to heat up than an equal mass of land does. While heat-conductive surfaces like asphalt and cement send the air temperature soaring by noon, H2O can keep the surrounding area nice and cool all day long.

Green Rooftops: Slide on your gardening gloves and head for the rooftops. While standard roofing can get up to 90°F hotter than the summer air, vegetative roofing stays cool year-round. As a result, green roofs can save you up to $200,000 in energy costs. And if you’re worried that your rooftop can’t handle your rainforest visions, think again. Buildings around the world are topped off with trees, shrubs and vines that would make even Tarzan a happy camper.