Volunteers in San Francisco are being sought to help create new heat maps of the urban landscape by attaching sensors to their vehicles.
The city is one of 14 that were selected for the Urban Heat Watch project, which aims to better understand the relationship between climate change, extreme temperatures, public health and the built environment, according to the city administrator’s office.
The project is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and will allow the city to measure how temperatures vary by neighborhood in an effort to address health inequalities related to extreme heat.
About 50 volunteers are being recruited to attach sensors to their vehicles and drive along pre-determined routes in the city. The sensors will record temperature and humidity data that will help design urban heat island maps. Interested volunteers can sign up online.
“We know that the conditions of extreme heat and poor air quality caused by climate change can have detrimental health impacts and exacerbate health inequities among communities of color and among medically vulnerable individuals,” said the city’s director of health, Dr. Grant Colfax.
“We joined this effort because natural disasters such as extreme heat disproportionately impact people of color and marginalized communities such as those residing in Chinatown,” Kent Woo, executive director of NICOS, said in a news release. “We are proud to partner with the City and the Urban Heat Watch project to empower our ability to monitor and address the effects of extreme heat.”
The city reports higher increases of emergency room visits during extreme heat compared to other parts of the state. That is because people who live in temperate climates have a harder time withstanding extreme heat events than people who live in hotter climates, according to the administrator’s office.
The effects can be worse for vulnerable populations, including older adults, children, and people with pre-existing health conditions, and people who cannot easily relocate to find temporary relief.
According to a 2019 report by UC Berkely Public School of Health, San Francisco has between three and six extreme heat events each year. Climate change could increase such events up to 13 per year by the end of the century.