A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Riding in a heat wave: Saved by big trees

Written August 2nd, 2022 by Hasso Hering

On a tree-shaded street in west Albany, it was less than 100 degrees on July 29 whereas…

Everybody knows that when it’s hot, it’s hotter in the sun than in the shade. And when you’re riding a bike on city streets during a heat wave, streets with huge trees are more pleasant to ride than those without.

During last week’s warm spell I thought I would try for some data to back up the conventional wisdom. So I packed a household thermometer on my ride on Friday afternoon.

The results were less than spectacular. There was a difference in ambient temperature all right,  a temperature difference between sunny blocks and blocks shaded by an ample canopy of leaves above. But the difference was not great, not as great as I had hoped.

Still, in the middle of a summer’s day lots of big trees have an obvious cooling effect on the people below them. We can feel the difference even if the difference in Fahrenheit is just a few degrees.

Which is one reason Albany and other towns try to protect mature trees and require new ones to be planted when new parts of town are developed. But this protection is not strong.

Big old trees are cut down all the time when they’re in the way of a new street or housing development. Or if they threaten to break up sidewalks or pavement. Or because they cause too much work when they drop a million leaves in the fall.

New trees planted in their place don’t achieve the desired result — scenic enhancement and summertime cooling — for 20 or 30 years. And some never do because they are what you might call “mall trees,” slender and small, with no chance of growing into something that resembles a 50-year -old maple or majestic old oak.

I don’t know what could be done to provide greater protection for big shade trees in the city. But if it’s true that we are likely to face longer and more severe heat waves in the summers to come, we ought to make sure to save as much of the tree canopy as we can. (hh)

… it was well above 100 a few blocks away, without benefit of a canopy of shade trees.


8 responses to “Riding in a heat wave: Saved by big trees”

  1. MarK says:

    No money in trees. The city planners could care less.

  2. Carol Gascoigne says:

    I am all for lots of trees. They are beautiful, provide nesting spots for birds, resting spots for squirrels and cats and climbing opportunities for kids. As well as the occasional limb used for a rope swing.
    They make us smile. Nature’s air conditioning. It is criminal to cut them down

  3. Kent says:

    In some cases old trees have root rot so they need to be taken down and new trees should then be planted.

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I’m with you, progressive brother….and Carol.

    Cutting down a tree amounts to a sacrilegious act of violence. Like Carol said, “It is criminal to cut them down.”

    A tree is like an elderly parent. In a genealogical sense, the city or a property owner eliminating a tree is akin to murdering a family member.

    If the city or property owner insists on continuing this heinous practice, they must give proper expression to the resulting sadness that everyone feels.

    A street sign may be appropriate. I suggest a “Hasso Hering (or Carol Gascoigne) Canopy Replacement” sign be installed wherever an old tree is cut down and a new tree is planted.

    A little self-promotion at taxpayer’s expense should make Hasso and Carol feel better….right?

  5. M. Richner says:

    Trees, By Joyce Kilmer

    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree.

    A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
    Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

    A tree that looks at God all day,
    And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

    A tree that may in Summer wear
    A nest of robins in her hair;

    Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
    Who intimately lives with rain.

    Poems are made by fools like me,
    But only God can make a tree.

  6. thomas earl cordier says:

    Our lawn is green under the shade of the large maple where we sit to enjoy the summer.

  7. MarK says:

    The “plan” for the housing tract to be built on Gibson Hill calls for 11 trees to be removed. If they’re “planning”, why can’t they plan around them?


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