NASA’s Cool Aerial Photo of NYC & Facts About “Heat Island Effect”

a satellite view of a city
image from NASA

Gothamist shared a photo which NASA had posted as its image of the day, featuring a look at Manhattan.

The photo reveals some interesting details about the “heat island effect” along with the photo.

Since I’m from New York City (Brooklyn!), I was interested in finding out more about the photo.

According to NASA, The narrow island of Manhattan, located between the Hudson River and the East River, is a familiar feature to crews on the International Space Station. 

  • Bridges are visible due to shadows they cast
  • Grid patterns of streets stand out
  • Not so surprisingly, Central Park is one of the main visual features with ball fields looking like tiny dots.
  • There are two dark zones in Midtown and the Financial District where the tallest buildings cast shadows even early in the afternoon

Here is another interesting bit of info related to the “heat island effect” from NASA:

Tall buildings have a more complex effect. Shadowed zones in the “urban canyons” between tall buildings receive fewer hours of direct sunlight per day. But where that light can reach the canyon floors, energy is reflected back up at the walls of the buildings, where it is absorbed and later released as heat. This is especially the case at night, when urban canyons retain more heat than parts of the city with shorter buildings.

I’d expect the tall buildings to act as protection from the heat and not cause it to create more of it at night. But the explanation of how the heat reflected back up kind of makes sense (not that I am one with much aptitude in science!)

Check out the NASA photo here and you can also check the Gothamist article where I first learned of the photo here.

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