This repository houses peer-reviewed literature, data sets, reports, and other materials generated by researchers, practitioners, and other regional stakeholders that may be informative for local and regional efforts mitigating the adverse impacts of heat. The collection is intended to serve as a resource for anyone looking for information on top research findings, reports, or initiatives related to heat and air quality. This includes community, local, state, and regional partners and other interested parties contributing to heat and air quality planning, preparedness, and response activities.
More Information: The Phoenix Regional Heat and Air Quality Knowledge Repository is product of the Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) initiative in partnership with the Urban Climate Research Center.
Public transit systems have been identified as a critical component to reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation sector to mitigate future climate change impacts. A unique aspect of public transit is its use almost always necessitates environmental exposure and the design of these systems directly influences rider exposure via rider ingress, egress, and waiting. There is a tension between policies and programs which promote transit use to combat climate change and the potential impact an uncertain climate future may have on transit riders.
In the American Southwest, extreme heat events, a known public health threat, are projected to increase between 150 and 840% over the next decade, and may be a health hazard for transit riders. There are opportunities to incorporate rider health risks in the overall planning process and develop alternative transit schedules during extreme heat events to minimize these risks. Using Los Angeles Metro as a case studies, we show that existing transit vehicles can be reallocated across the system to significantly reduce exposure for riders who are more vulnerable to heat while maintaining a minimum level of service across the system. As cities continue to invest in public transit it is critical for them to understand transit use as an exposure pathway for riders and to develop strategies to mitigate potential health risks.
Environmental Research Letters Connecting People and Place: A New Framework for Reducing Urban Vulnerability to Extreme Heat
Climate change is predicted to increase the intensity and negative impacts of urban heat events, prompting the need to develop preparedness and adaptation strategies that reduce societal vulnerability to extreme heat. Analysis of societal vulnerability to extreme heat events requires an interdisciplinary approach that includes information about weather and climate, the natural and built environment, social processes and characteristics, interactions with stakeholders, and an assessment of community vulnerability at a local level. In this letter, we explore the relationships between people and places, in the context of urban heat stress, and present a new research framework for a multi-faceted, top-down and bottom-up analysis of local-level vulnerability to extreme heat. This framework aims to better represent societal vulnerability through the integration of quantitative and qualitative data that go beyond aggregate demographic information. We discuss how different elements of the framework help to focus attention and resources on more targeted health interventions, heat hazard mitigation and climate adaptation strategies.
Designing a Geospatial Information Infrastructure for Mitigation of Heat Wave Hazards in Urban Areas
Extreme heat is a natural hazard that could rapidly increase in magnitude in the 21st century. The combination of increasingurbanization, growing numbers of vulnerable people, and the evidence of global warming indicate an urgent need for improved heat-wavemitigation and response systems. A review of the literature on heat-wave impacts in urban environments and on human health revealsopportunities for improved synthesis, integration, and sharing of information resources that relate to the spatial and temporal nature ofthreats posed by extreme heat. This paper illustrates how geospatial technologies can aid in the mitigation of urban heat waves.
The Social and Spatial Distribution of Temperature-Related Health Impacts From Urban Heat Island Reduction Policies
Cities are developing innovative strategies to combat climate change but there remains little knowledge of the winners and losers from climate-adaptive land use planning and design. We examine the distribution of health benefits associated with land use policies designed to increase vegetation and surface reflectivity in three US metropolitan areas: Atlanta, GA, Philadelphia, PA, and Phoenix, AZ. Projections of population and land cover at the census tract scale were combined with climate models for the year 2050 at 4 km × 4 km resolution to produce future summer temperatures which were input into a comparative risk assessment framework for the temperature-mortality relationship. The findings suggest disparities in the effectiveness of urban heat management strategies by age, income, and race. We conclude that, to be most protective of human health, urban heat management must prioritize areas of greatest population vulnerability.
Global environmental change and sustainability science increasingly recognize the need to address the consequences of changes taking place in the structure and function of the biosphere. These changes raise questions such as: Who and what are vulnerable to the multiple environmental changes underway, and where? Research demonstrates that vulnerability is registered not by exposure to hazards (perturbations and stresses) alone but also resides in the sensitivity and resilience of the system experiencing such hazards. This recognition requires revisions and enlargements in the basic design of vulnerability assessments, including the capacity to treat coupled human–environment systems and those linkages within and without the systems that affect their vulnerability. A vulnerability framework for the assessment of coupled human–environment systems is presented.
Research on global environmental change has significantly improved our understanding of the structure and function of the biosphere and the human impress on both (1). The emergence of “sustainability science” (2–4) builds toward an understanding of the human–environment condition with the dual objectives of meeting the needs of society while sustaining the life support systems of the planet. These objectives, in turn, require improved dialogue between science and decision making (5–8). The vulnerability of coupled human–environment systems is one of the central elements of this dialogue and sustainability research (6, 9–11). It directs attention to such questions as: Who and what are vulnerable to the multiple environmental and human changes underway, and where? How are these changes and their consequences attenuated or amplified by different human and environmental conditions? What can be done to reduce vulnerability to change? How may more resilient and adaptive communities and societies be built?
Answers to these and related questions require conceptual frameworks that account for the vulnerability of coupled human–environment systems with diverse and complex linkages. Various expert communities have made considerable progress in pointing the way toward the design of these frameworks (10, 11). These advances are briefly reviewed here and, drawing on them, we present a conceptual framework of vulnerability developed by the Research and Assessment Systems for Sustainability Program (http://sust.harvard.edu) that produced the set of works in this Special Feature of PNAS. The framework aims to make vulnerability analysis consistent with the concerns of sustainability and global environmental change science. The case study by Turner et al. (12) in this issue of PNAS illustrates how the framework informs vulnerability assessments.
We use the Northeast US Urban Climate Archipelago as a case study to explore three key limitations of planning and policy initiatives to mitigate extreme urban heat. These limitations are: (1) a lack of understanding of spatial considerations—for example, how nearby urban areas interact, affecting, and being affected by, implementation of such policies; (2) an emphasis on air temperature reduction that neglects assessments of other important meteorological parameters, such as humidity, mixing heights, and urban wind fields; and (3) too narrow of a temporal focus—either time of day, season, or current vs. future climates. Additionally, the absence of a direct policy/planning linkage between heat mitigation goals and actual human health outcomes, in general, leads to solutions that only indirectly address the underlying problems. These issues are explored through several related atmospheric modeling case studies that reveal the complexities of designing effective urban heat mitigation strategies. We conclude with recommendations regarding how policy-makers can optimize the performance of their urban heat mitigation policies and programs. This optimization starts with a thorough understanding of the actual end-point goals of these policies, and concludes with the careful integration of scientific knowledge into the development of location-specific strategies that recognize and address the limitations discussed herein.
A web-based software tool has been developed to assist urban planners and air quality management officials in assessing the potential ofurban heat island mitigation strategies to affect the urban climate, air quality, and energy consumption within their cities. The user of thetool can select from over 170 US cities for which to conduct the analysis, and can specify city-wide changes in surface reflectivity and/or veg-etative cover. The Mitigation Impact Screening Tool (MIST) then extrapolates results from a suite of simulations for 20 cities to estimate airtemperature changes associated with the specified changes in surface characteristics for the selected city. Alternatively the user can simply definea nominal air temperature reduction that they hope to achieve with an unspecified mitigation scenario. These air temperature changes are theninput to energy and ozone models to estimate the impact that the mitigation action may have on the selected city. The results presented by MISTinclude a high degree of uncertainty and are intended only as a first-order estimate that urban planners can use to assess the viability of heatisland mitigation strategies for their cities. As appropriate, MIST analyses should be supplemented by more detailed modeling.
Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events: Implications for Food Production, Plant Diseases, and Pests
Current and future energy use from burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests for cultivation can have profound effects on the global environment, agriculture, and the availability of low-cost, high-quality food for humans. Individual farmers and consumers are expected to be affected by changes in global and regional climate. The agricultural sector in both developing and developed areas needs to understand what is at stake and to prepare for the potential for change wisely.
Despite tremendous improvements in technology and crop yield potential, food production remains highly dependent on climate, because solar radiation, temperature, and precipitation are the main drivers of crop growth. Plant diseases and pest infestations, as well as the supply of and demand for irrigation water are influenced by climate. For example, in recent decades, the persistent drought in the Sahelian region of Africa has caused continuing deterioration of food production[1,2]; the 1988 Mid-west drought led to a 30% reduction in U.S. corn production and cost taxpayers $3 billion in direct relief payments to farmers and, weather anomalies associated with the 1997-98 El Niño affected agriculture adversely in Nordeste, Brazil and Indonesia. Earlier in the century, the 1930s U.S. Southern Great Plains drought caused some 200,000 farm bankruptcies in the Dust Bowl; yields of wheat and corn were reduced by as much as 50%.
The aim of this article is to discuss the effects of climate variability and change on food production, risk of malnutrition, and incidence of weeds, insects, and diseases. It focuses on the effects of extreme weather events on agriculture, looking at examples from the recent past and to future projections. Major incidents of climate variability are contrasted, including the effects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Finally, projected scenarios of future climate change impacts on crop production and risk of hunger in major agricultural regions are presented.
Altered weather patterns can increase crop vulnerability to infection, pest infestations, and choking weeds. Ranges of crop weeds, insects, and diseases are projected to expand to higher latitudes[6,7]. Shifts in climate in different world regions may have different and contrasting effects. Some parts of the world may benefit from global climate change (at least in the short term), but large regions of the developing world may experience reduced food supplies and potential increase in malnutrition[2,3]. Changes in food supply could lead to permanent or semi-permanent displacement of populations in developing countries, consequent overcrowding and associated diseases, such as tuberculosis.
Urban Heat Island (UHI) is considered as one of the major problems in the 21st century posed to human beings as a result of urbanization and industrialization of human civilization. The large amount of heat generated from urban structures, as they consume and re-radiate solar radiations, and from the anthropogenic heat sources are the main causes of UHI. The two heat sources increase the temperatures of an urban area as compared to its surroundings, which is known as Urban Heat Island Intensity (UHII). The problem is even worse in cities or metropolises with large population and extensive economic activities. The estimated three billion people living in the urban areas in the world are directly exposed to the problem, which will be increased significantly in the near future. Due to the severity of the problem, vast research effort has been dedicated and a wide range of literature is available for the subject. The literature available in this area includes the latest research approaches, concepts, methodologies, latest investigation tools and mitigation measures. This study was carried out to review and summarize this research area through an investigation of the most important feature of UHI. It was concluded that the heat re-radiated by the urban structures plays the most important role which should be investigated in details to study urban heating especially the UHI. It was also concluded that the future research should be focused on design and planning parameters for reducing the effects of urban heat island and ultimately living in a better environment.
The evidence that heat waves can result in both increased deaths and illness is substantial, and concern over this issue is rising because of climate change. Adverse health impacts from heat waves can be avoided, and epidemiologic studies have identified specific population and community characteristics that mark vulnerability to heat waves.
We situated vulnerability to heat in geographic space and identified potential areas for intervention and further research.
We mapped and analyzed 10 vulnerability factors for heat-related morbidity/mortality in the United States: six demographic characteristics and two household air conditioning variables from the U.S. Census Bureau, vegetation cover from satellite images, and diabetes prevalence from a national survey. We performed a factor analysis of these 10 variables and assigned values of increasing vulnerability for the four resulting factors to each of 39,794 census tracts. We added the four factor scores to obtain a cumulative heat vulnerability index value.
Four factors explained > 75% of the total variance in the original 10 vulnerability variables: a) social/environmental vulnerability (combined education/poverty/race/green space), b) social isolation, c) air conditioning prevalence, and d) proportion elderly/diabetes. We found substantial spatial variability of heat vulnerability nationally, with generally higher vulnerability in the Northeast and Pacific Coast and the lowest in the Southeast. In urban areas, inner cities showed the highest vulnerability to heat.
These methods provide a template for making local and regional heat vulnerability maps. After validation using health outcome data, interventions can be targeted at the most vulnerable populations.