Socioeconomic and Outdoor Meteorological Determinants of Indoor Temperature and Humidity in New York City Dwellings

Weather Clim Soc. 2013 Apr;5(2):168-179. doi: 10.1175/WCAS-D-12-00030.1.


Background: Numerous mechanisms link outdoor weather and climate conditions to human health. It is likely that many health conditions are more directly affected by indoor rather than outdoor conditions. Yet, the relationship between indoor temperature and humidity conditions to outdoor variability, and the heterogeneity of the relationship among different indoor environments are largely unknown.

Methods: We use 5-14 day measures of indoor temperature and relative humidity from 327 dwellings in New York City for the years 2008-2011 to investigate the relationship between indoor climate, outdoor meteorological conditions, socioeconomic conditions, and building descriptors. Study households were primarily middle-income and located across the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Manhattan.

Results: Indoor temperatures are positively associated with outdoor temperature during the warm season and study dwellings in higher socioeconomic status neighborhoods are significantly cooler. During the cool season, outdoor temperatures have little effect on indoor temperatures; however, indoor temperatures can range more than 10 °C between dwellings despite similar outdoor temperatures. Apartment buildings tend to be significantly warmer than houses and dwellings on higher floors are also significantly warmer than dwellings on lower floors. Outdoor specific humidity is positively associated with indoor specific and relative humidity, but there is no consistent relationship between outdoor and indoor relative humidity.

Conclusions: In New York City, the relationship between indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity conditions vary significantly between dwellings. These results can be used to inform studies of health outcomes for which temperature or humidity is an established factor affecting human health and highlights the need for more research on the determinants of indoor climate.