Developing thermal extreme indicators for vulnerability assessment & climate adaption

Photo credit: Vasilios Sfinarolakis Flickr Creative Commons

Extreme temperature events – prolonged periods of hot and cold weather – cause greater mortality rates than all other weather-related events combined. Not everyone who lives in a city experiences temperature extremes in the same way.

Vulnerability to extreme weather varies significantly across city neighborhoods, partially due to characteristics of the built environment, and partially due to individual and household-level coping capacities such as economic constraints and personal health conditions. However, indicators commonly used to assess thermal exposure and sensitivity are aggregated over broad geographic areas, and do not provide a way for city agencies to target heat reduction, energy affordability and emergency warning programs to those who are most in need. The objective of this research is to improve thermal extreme-related vulnerability metrics that form a basis for socially-equitable urban resilience planning. The interdisciplinary team of researchers will:

  • Collaborate with Buffalo residents to develop a pilot thermal sensing network that will enable them to model micro-climate variation as a function of urban landscapes, the built environment, proximity to water and other urban features,
  • Conduct structured interviews with participants that will ascertain thermal comfort, economic constraints related to energy consumption and capacities for coping with extreme heat, and
  • Work with local government agencies to identify spatial adaptation strategies for managing thermal extremes.

The project team includes Zoé Hamstead, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning; Nicholas Rajkovich, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture; Zachary Schlader, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences; Susan Clark, PhD, Research Scientist at RENEW; and William Siegner, Master’s of Urban Planning Candidate in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning.