UNMC ‘Urban Heat Island’ study kicks off to explain why areas in North and South Omaha are hotter

This study is a part of a larger vision to change the landscape of North and South Omaha
This study is a part of a larger vision to change the landscape of North and South Omaha.
Published: Aug. 7, 2022 at 1:08 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Redlining is the now illegal practice of defining areas with predominantly Black and Brown people as unfit for investment, meaning loans were denied to people in areas based on race.

Now that’s having real impacts on the heat index in North and South Omaha.

“It’s going to be 105. Imagine somewhere in the city it’s 110,” said Abdoulaziz Abdoulaye, the study coordinator.

Abdoulaye is a Ph.D. student in public health at UNMC. Saturday he and volunteers hit the streets of Omaha with heat-measuring sensors to start the mapping project that is also going on nationally.

Data from other studies show places that have been redlined can be 20 degrees hotter than nearby non-redlined areas. These are called “urban heat islands.”

“You have more houses that have different types of painting that might not be adaptive, that will not reflect the heat.” “They don’t have enough parks. They don’t have enough water bodies in this part of the city,” said Abdoulaye.

The data will be used by the City of Omaha’s Planning Department.

“It would help inform the climate action plan and resilience plan that Omaha is going to be working on next year,” said Lisa Smith, planner at the City of Omaha. “That could mean more cooling stations, tree canopies, and even individual attention to homes that need energy-efficient updating,” she said.

One of the volunteers that took three shifts Saturday was Tricia, a 3rd-grade teacher in North Omaha. She noticed that the temperature reading in her car at school was hotter than where she lives in another neighborhood.

“The parking lot is where some of the play happens because the actual playground is very small where there is grass.” “So the reality is it’s much hotter where they’re playing the majority of the time. And that is a concern,” said Tricia Gushard.

This study is a part of a larger vision to change the landscape of North and South Omaha.

“Organizations such as Simple Foundation, various other organizations. We’re on the ground and we’re working with the people and providing services.” “I think the supporting factor, meaning having the data and the policy, will help it move and have more of a better impact, much quicker and much faster,” said Osuman Issaka, CEO of The Simple Foundation, the meeting place for the study Saturday.

“The research is the beginning. Data follows. And then plan of action,” said Issaka.

The study Saturday was paired with an educational fair at The Simple Foundation to get kids excited about science and to learn about how to stay safe in the heat.

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