Beat The Heat: Mapping Melbourne’s Tree Cover

January 7, 2015 2:32 pm PST | Data Apps & Visualization, Data as a Service

The earth is getting warmer. The impact of climate change is particularly felt in cities where it can be four to seven degrees hotter on average than in the countryside.

Today in Melbourne, the temperature is expected to climb to 92 degrees (33 C.) But, it is only early summer now and one wonders just how hot it will get as the season progresses.

The Melbourne City Council is concerned about increasing temperatures and their frequency. According to a study conducted by the City, in the coming years, the number of very hot days will dramatically increase to as many as 26 a year, as global warming takes further hold.

The alarming prevalence of extreme heat will increase pressure on the city’s population, according to the study, as “it exacerbates heat stress, particularly for vulnerable people such as the elderly, the very young, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.”

In an effort combat climate change and make its citizens more comfortable, the City of Melbourne took at look at its tree cover, going so far as to map it (with a bit of help from Socrata.) That’s because tree cover not only provides shade from the hot sun, but also increases the amount of water in the air, cooling the space directly around a tree.

The resulting map of the City’s 70,000 trees, which used data collected through aerial photography that employed laser technology to distinguish trees from other objects, revealed about 22 percent of Melbourne is currently covered by canopy. In response, the City Council has announced plans to increase the proportion of Melbourne covered by tree canopy 40 percent by 2040.

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