ONE-ON-ONE: USC professor explains why Columbia is so hot and what can be done about it

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — It’s not even summer but the heat can already be felt in the Midlands.

Heat-related illness can range from dizziness to a stroke but finding out more about where the hottest places in a city are can help combat the sweltering temperatures.

“We think about hurricanes and tornadoes but heat is actually but heat is actually the deadliest of all the weather related disasters. It’s more dangerous than you’d think,” said Kirstin Dow, USC professor.

Heat-related illness can be even more severe for those with pre-existing conditions and pregnant women.

The temperatures can be hotter in certain areas due to heat being given off by cars… pavement and air conditioners. 

“Within a city, we get all these different sources built up. They call it an urban heat island, but it’s more of an urban heat archipelago, a thousand little islands sprinkled around the city,” Dow said. “Think about when you walk on the Horseshoe at USC under all the trees, you’re much more comfortable than out on the street and in the sun.”

A new USC research project is searching to find the hottest places in the city by using the help of citizen scientists. 

“You mount a sensor on the outside of your car,” Dow explained. “Roll down your window and stick it out the car like you would a Gamecocks flag.”

Together with satellite data, this information can be used to map out how hot certain parts of Columbia are located.

“We’re going to try to do that and see which places are more protected, where we’ve done good urban planning and have trees shading the south sides of buildings,” the USC professor said.

Dow says that things can be done to cool off an area from using cooler surfaces in construction to the way buildings are oriented. Another way is creating shade, especially with vegetation.

“Getting more trees up and going so we have the full tree canopy. We’ve lot a lot of the tree canopy in Columbia in different areas,” Dow said. “We can start working to restore that and be in better shape as we get more of these hotter days.”

She says that an increase in the number of hot days is not far off into the future.

“Of all the things we know about climate change, we’re most certain about temperatures increasing already. We’re seeing evidence around the world. It’s time to plan for the future,” Dow said.

Categories: Local News, Richland