Here we use remotely sensed land surface temperature measurements to explore the distribution of the United States’ urban heating burden, both at high resolution (within cities or counties) and at scale (across the whole contiguous United States). While a rich literature has documented neighborhood‐level disparities in urban heat exposures in individual cities, data constraints have precluded comparisons across locations. Here, drawing on urban temperature anomalies during extreme summer surface temperature events from all 1,056 US counties with more than 10 developed census tracts, we find that the poorest tracts (and those with lowest average education levels) within a county are significantly hotter than the richest (and more educated) neighborhoods for 76% of these counties (54% for education); we also find that neighborhoods with higher Black, Hispanic, and Asian population shares are hotter than the more White, non‐Hispanic areas in each county. This holds in counties with both large and small spreads in these population shares, and for 71% of all counties the significant racial urban heat disparities persist even when adjusting for income. Although individual locations have different histories that have contributed to race‐ and class‐based geographies, we find that the physical features of the urban environments driving these surface heat exposure gradients are fairly uniform across the country. Systematically, the disproportionate heat surface exposures faced by minority communities are due to more built‐up neighborhoods, less vegetation, and—to a lesser extent—higher population density.
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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