Study: Hottest, coldest places in Dane County 10 miles away

Hottest place in Madison is downtown on isthmus
Study: Hottest, coldest places in Dane County 10 miles away

A new study is documenting the hottest and coldest places in Dane County.

The study, by researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison is one of the first of its kind. Over the past three years, researchers have collected temperature data from 150 locations across Dane County.

The most recent data has found the hottest place is in downtown Madison on the isthmus.

Arguably most surprising about the data is that the coldest place is just about 10 miles away, outside the city limits, and is nearly 10 degrees cooler.

“We’re honestly surprised at how big the differences were,” graduate researcher Jason Schatz said. “For such a small area, that’s within 5 or 10 miles, you can see a huge range of climates.”

What makes the downtown area so much hotter than outside the city is its buildings, Schatz said.

“Where the buildings are most densely built and tallest, it’s generally hottest,” he said. “You have the highest concentration of pavement and brick [there.] Pavement tends to be a lot thicker, and it can just hold more heat.”

That compares to open, vegetated spaces where temperatures are coolest in the county.

“If you think about a patch of grass, a blade of grass is extremely thin, it doesn’t store or absorb a lot of heat and it ends up cooling off a lot more quickly,” Schatz said.

The information isn’t just interesting; it can also provide some practical use.

“You can think about human health during extremely hot or extremely cold periods, you can think about energy use, like how much it costs to heat and cool buildings,” Schatz said.

Data collection from all 150 locations is ongoing, and Schatz said that information will be used for more studies, including how different temperatures across Dane County compare to human health in those areas.

Schatz added the information could also be useful when considering where Dane County may develop more urban areas and how that could affect the climate.