NOAA Opens Applications for 2024 Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign

by | Jan 4, 2024

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has begun accepting applications for its 2024 Urban Heat Island (UHI) mapping campaign program, aiming to help cities identify their hottest neighborhoods and implement measures to protect these communities.

The program, now in its eighth year, supports urban heat mapping projects led by organizations such as local universities, nonprofits, or local governments within various cities. Community scientists working on these projects use sensors attached to cars in order to collect data on temperature, humidity, time, and location, then compile this information to map the heat distribution during various times of the day.

Areas within cities that lack green space or have high concentrations of pavement tend to maintain higher temperatures, so mapping efforts may guide governments in implementing cooling measures, such as adding shading structures or planting trees.

The UHI mapping campaign is run by the NOAA’s National Integrated Heat Health Information System through a partnership with CAPA Strategies, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Climate Change Intensifies Urban Heat Island Effect

The urban heat island effect is the tendency for cities to maintain higher temperatures because of high concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat at a higher rate than natural landscapes.

Climate change-caused temperature rise has only caused this effect to worsen. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Chicago may experience more than 30 days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the near future due to the urban heat island effect. Further, research has also found that low-income residents and people of color disproportionately live within the hottest neighborhoods of cities and therefore face higher energy costs for cooling.

“Climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of heat waves in our country,” said Dr. Sarah Kapnick, chief scientist for NOAA . “NOAA’s Urban Heat Island mapping program is a fantastic way for communities to use science to identify the hottest neighborhoods and tailor solutions including planting more trees, increasing access to cooling resources, and directing outreach with health tips during heat waves.”

Strategies Developed to Address Extreme Heat

Partially due to the NOAA study and others like it, technologies and mitigation strategies have been developed to help lower temperatures in a given city’s most vulnerable areas.

For example, cool roofing materials may be used to lower the internal temperature of buildings, and cool pavement may replace conventional pavement, known to reach temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit during summer months. Many cities have also worked to build up green infrastructure where their canopy is lacking.

More than 80 cities and counties in the U.S. have participated in the UHI mapping program thus far. The application for parties aiming to participate in the 2024 campaign is due by Jan. 31.

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