How is the urban heat island mapping project funded?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Program Office (CPO), the interagency National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), and CAPA Strategies, LLC launched the Heat Watch community-led campaigns in cities and counties across the United States in 2017. Clark County is one of 14 communities across the U.S. that will be part of the Summer 2022 urban heat island mapping cohort. NOAA has funded CAPA to provide science support for community-led campaigns to map urban heat islands. A local funding match is provided by each of the selected communities.
Who is involved in the Southern Nevada heat island mapping project?
This project is a collaboration between resident volunteers and a number of Southern Nevada-area stakeholders. The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) is serving as the project lead, with Clark County, UNLV, and Get Outdoor Nevada serving as project partners. Support is also being provided by the Nevada Minority Healthy and Equity Coalition, Southern Nevada Health District, Desert Research Institute, City of Las Vegas, City of Henderson, City of North Las Vegas, Boulder City, and Southern Nevada Water Authority.
We’re always looking for more partners. If you’re interested, please reach out!
What are heat islands?
From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
Heat islands are urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than outlying areas. Structures such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes such as forests and water bodies. Urban areas, where these structures are highly concentrated and greenery is limited, become “islands” of higher temperatures relative to outlying areas.
Heat islands are usually measured by the temperature difference between cities relative to the surrounding areas. Temperature can also vary inside a city. Some areas are hotter than others due to the uneven distribution of heat-absorbing buildings and pavements, while other spaces remain cooler as a result of trees and greenery. These temperature differences constitute intra-urban heat islands.
How dangerous is heat in Southern Nevada?
Increasing temperatures in the region are associated with and contribute to a host of negative impacts – from exacerbating drought and poorer air quality to added wear and tear on infrastructure. But, most importantly, studies have found a clear link between increasing temperatures and increasing heat-related deaths and hospitalizations. A recent analysis of heat waves and heat-related death in Southern Nevada between 2007 and 2016 found a statistically significant correlation between the two. Health records offer a glimpse into extreme heat’s toll on health locally. There were nearly 1,000 serious heat-related health incidents (fatalities, ER visits and hospitalizations) in Southern Nevada between 2016 and 2018. And this is almost certainly an undercount due to the way this data is captured at hospitals and emergency rooms and on death certificates.
Why are cars being used to capture the temperature data?
Currently, capturing the temperature data by car is the most efficient and safest method available, according to CAPA Strategies. Because all of the sensors need to be calibrated in the same way, using multiple types of vehicles (such as motorcycles or buses) or transportation modes (such as bicycling, walking) is difficult. The temperature data is also captured by driving customized pre-mapped, nonlinear routes to ensure a range of neighborhood types and land covers are included, making it difficult for in-service vehicles (such as buses or TNCs) to be utilized. Finally, safety is also a concern. Since the campaign will likely take place on day with temperatures of at least 100 degrees and the pre-mapped routes are several miles long and must be completed in an hour, it would be dangerous for pedestrians or bicyclists to do.
What will the data be used to produce?
The final product of the community science field campaigns is a set of high resolution air temperature and humidity data, and a report by CAPA Strategies that provides a detailed analysis of distribution of heat in the morning, afternoon and evening. Interactive, high resolution web maps of the modeled air temperature and heat index are also provided. The maps are produced using a machine learning process that combines satellite imagery and air temperature and humidity readings collected by volunteers during the campaign.
Previous reports can be accessed here.
Where else is this happening?
Southern Nevada was one of 14 locations selected in the U.S. to participate in the 2022 Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign. The program is also going international for the first time this year, with campaigns in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Freetown, Sierra Leone. See map below for selected cities.
Where has this already been done?
Over the past five years, NOAA has funded CAPA Strategies to provide science support for 35 community-led campaigns to map urban heat islands (see map below).