A team of USDA Forest Service researchers, from the Northern Research Station and the Urban Natural Resources Institute (UNRI), located in Amherst, MA, has just released the findings of an initial study of the impacts of the June 1st tornado on the micro-climate in the tornado damaged zone. Using a series of monitoring stations that were established in the East Forest Park neighborhood of Springfield, the initial findings indicate that the areas that had severe damage to the tree canopy showed higher daytime temperatures than nearby areas that were not impacted by the storm.
Findings from the study show that the tornado nearly eliminated street-side tree canopy cover, from an average of 44% canopy cover in the control, unaffected neighborhood to less than 1% in the tornado impacted zone. Additionally, the average morning and afternoon temperature increased between 1-2ºC in the tornado impacted neighborhood, compared to the unaffected neighborhood.
The noted difference in afternoon daily temperatures between the two areas provides preliminary, quantitative findings that supports the anecdotal testimony from residents of the impacted affected area, relative to the increased use of air-conditioning units, personal comfort levels, and an overall increase in energy costs in July and August 2011. Also, the loss of tree canopy cover following the tornado correlates with comments by residents in the impact zone, who report that the neighborhood lacks any shade and seems hotter and is noisier than in the past.