Local teams will work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to map urban heat islands, areas that can be up to 20 degrees hotter than nearby neighbourhoods.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and teams of community scientists will map the hottest parts of 14 US cities and counties and, for the first time, two international cities.
The NOAA Climate Programme Office will work with the interagency National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) and data analytics specialist Capa Strategies to launch the community-led heat mapping campaigns this summer.
Urban heat islands
Local teams will map urban heat islands, areas that can be up to 20 degrees hotter than nearby neighbourhoods. Over the past five years, NOAA has funded Capa Strategies to provide science support for 35 community-led campaigns to map urban heat islands. Using heat sensors mounted on their own cars or bikes, volunteer citizen scientists, led by a team of local partners in each city, will traverse their neighbourhoods in the morning, afternoon and evening on one of the hottest days of the year. The sensors record temperature, humidity, time and the volunteers’ location every second.
Capa’s end-to-end programme, including sensor technology, analysis and modelling, and community engagement, allows communities to develop hyperlocal descriptions of heat and strategise mitigation options specific to each region of the country. During the 2021 urban heat island campaign, 799 citizen scientists took 1.2 million measurements in 24 communities.
“Extreme heat kills more Americans than any other weather event and has the greatest impact on our nation’s most vulnerable communities”
The US communities chosen for the programme include Boulder, Colorado; Clark County, Nevada, which includes Las Vegas; Columbia, South Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Jacksonville, Florida; Knoxville and Nashville, Tennessee; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Montgomery County, Maryland; Omaha, Nebraska; Spokane, Washington; Philadelphia; Brooklyn, New York and San Francisco. In addition, NOAA is working with local groups on international campaigns in Freetown, Sierra Leone and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The 2022 heat mapping campaign will also feature new, NOAA-funded instruments to better characterize urban climate and health hazards. Columbus, Ohio, and Philadelphia will use mobile air quality monitors to develop an understanding of the related impacts of heat and air quality. Clark County, Nevada, and Columbia, South Carolina, will install stationary temperature and humidity sensors to provide more information for decision-making through monitoring the urban heat island effect over the length of the summer.
“As climate change worsens heat waves, this critical information will help bring local and equitable solutions for those facing the greatest threats.”
“Our nation faces a climate crisis that has exacerbated inequities for low-income communities and communities of colour”
Cities from past campaigns have used their heat island maps to develop heat action plans, add cooling stations to bus shelters, educate residents and policymakers and inform new research. Last year, NIHHIS funded five new applied research projects in cities across the country to help develop tools for equitable heat intervention, investigate heat in rural areas and smaller cities and investigate the effect of coastlines on urban heat patterns.
“Our nation faces a climate crisis that has exacerbated inequities for low-income communities and communities of colour,” said NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad. “NOAA is helping communities measure their hottest places so that they can use this information to inform strategies to reduce the unhealthy and deadly effects of extreme heat and help us build a Climate Ready Nation.”
NOAA’s mapping programme is part of the Biden Administration’s Justice40 initiative, a whole-of-government effort to ensure that federal agencies work with states and local communities to make good on President Biden’s promise to deliver 40 per cent of benefits from federal investment in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.