In the United States, extreme heat causes more deaths per year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes, or cold weather events. In 2015, the NOAA Climate Program Office and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) co-founded NIHHIS to improve understanding and reduce impacts of extreme heat events, build capacity in the climate policy and public health policy communities, and develop tools to aid preparation and adaptation. NIHHIS launched an interagency working group including the CDC, FEMA, USDA, and EPA. Learn more about NIHHIS at this larger dedicated
webpage and main website.
In summer 2020, NIHHIS launched 13 community science Urban Heat Island mapping field campaigns in cities across the country, working in partnership with the CEE team and CAPA Strategies LLC. The term “urban heat island” refers to the fact that cities tend to get much warmer than their surrounding rural landscapes, particularly during the summer. This temperature difference occurs when cities’ unshaded roads and buildings gain heat during the day and radiate that heat into the surrounding air. As a result, highly developed urban areas can experience mid-afternoon temperatures that are 15°F to 20°F warmer than surrounding, vegetated areas.
Sara Benson (right) and Roxanne Lee, of the Boston Science Museum, using a CAPA Heat Strategies sensor to investigate the July 20, 2019, extreme heat in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, MA. Photo courtesy Boston Science Museum.
2020 represented the third year running that the Climate Program Office has supported these urban heat island mapping efforts. The inaugural year was funded via an environment literacy grant awarded by NOAA’s Office of Education. The cities in the 2020 cohort were the highest ranked applicants in a competitive process to determine which communities had the greatest need, most promising partnerships, and clearest applications identified for the resulting information: