Spokane Heat Maps

The Gonzaga Climate Center was awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization’s (NOAA) National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) to conduct a community science urban heat island mapping campaign in the summer of 2022. This study made it possible to better understand how urban heat is experienced in different areas of the City of Spokane. Read the press release

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On sunny days, dark building materials like concrete, asphalt, and dark rooftops retain more heat from light, causing those surfaces and surrounding areas to be hotter. As a result, areas with more buildings and parking lots often experience higher temperatures due to the urban heat island effect. However, strategies like increasing green space, trees, and using lighter-colored building materials can help cool down these heat islands. The urban heat island effect is made worse by climate change. It is not a cause of climate change.3

Infrared image
Two infrared photos taken on Gonzaga’s campus illustrate how the built environment can influence heat. St. Al’s church was measured at 88.9 degrees F, while the tree lined path next to it was only 81 degrees.

After months of collaboration and coordination, local organizers and volunteers collected thousands of temperature and humidity data points in the morning, afternoon, and evening of a long, hot campaign day on July 16th, 2022. Using special sensors mounted to their cars, over 40 volunteers drove 7 routes covering the full 69.5 miles2 of the City of Spokane. Collectively, volunteers recorded 43,988 individual measurements.

Initial finding: due to differences in tree cover, green spaces, and dark surfaces, some areas in Spokane are as much as a 13.9° warmer. A 90° day in one neighborhood could be a 104° day for another.
Read the 2022 Spokane Heat Watch Summary Report!

Without significant reductions in the use of fossil fuels for heating, electricity, and transportation, summer temperatures are projected to be warmer. Learn more about projected changes in temperature from the Spokane Climate Project.  

"Data from Gonzaga’s Beat the Heat program will help Spokane be better prepared for future extreme heat events and take adaptive measures to support those most at risk from heat exposure. This work will save lives.”
Kara Odegard Spokane City Council Sustainability Manager


You can have an impact through the Climate Resilience Project by making a gift of support.



The Spokane Heat Watch urban heat island maps were created with the help of 40 Spokane volunteers and with the partnership of the following: 

1  USGCRP (U.S. Global Change Research Program). 2016. The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: A scientific assessment. https://health2016.globalchange.gov.
2  CDC, "Natural Disasters, Severe Weather, and COVID-19," https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html
3  Skeptical Science, "Does Urban Heat Island effect exaggerate global warming trends?" https://skepticalscience.com/urban-heat-island-effect.htm


Spokane Urban Heat Island Mapping








Temperature Differential