Data collected about heat in Jacksonville, Fla., will be used to help areas impacted
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Extreme heat can be fatal, and climate change is making the world hotter. Researchers in Jacksonville, Fla., are trying to get a better understanding of how that affects their city and what could help. From member station WJCT, Brendan Rivers tagged along as volunteers mapped the heat.
BRENDAN RIVERS, BYLINE: The sun's just about to rise as I meet up with University of North Florida biology professor Adam Rosenblatt in downtown Jacksonville. Over the past few months, he's been getting ready for today's citywide heat mapping project.
ADAM ROSENBLATT: I have the sensor in my hand. It's, you know, maybe 2 feet tall. And it's got a part on the bottom where you can attach it to the window and then a part on the top that has the sensors.
RIVERS: With that sensor attached to Rosenblatt's Prius, he'll be driving a predetermined route just north of downtown three times today - at 6 a.m., 3 p.m. and at 7. As he's driving, the sensor will measure temperatures.
ROSENBLATT: The goal is to create a map of heat for as much of the city as possible. And the reason that's important is because Jacksonville is already hot, but it's projected to get much hotter, which can become a serious public health issue as well as an issue for infrastructure of the city.
RIVERS: He's just one of 60 volunteers driving around Jacksonville with heat sensors today. High school student Grant Tucker and his father volunteer, too. The 17-year-old started a climate change nonprofit two years ago called Consequences Incorporated.
GRANT TUCKER: Our main goal is pretty simple - save the world.
RIVERS: Tucker first heard about the heat mapping campaign on the news.
TUCKER: My parents were all for it, and they also got involved in the movement. And they realize, you know, it shouldn't just be my generation. I shouldn't be protesting, picking up recyclables. I shouldn't have to do these things. But it's the reality of the world.
RIVERS: Jacksonville is the first and one of the biggest cities that'll be heat mapping this year. It's part of an annual effort organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. Morgan Zabow with NOAA's Climate Program Office says the data collected will help communities better understand what's known as the urban heat island effect.
MORGAN ZABOW: Cities, roads and buildings gain heat during the day, and then they radiate that heat back into the surrounding air, which can lead to cities being 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than areas with more green spaces.
RIVERS: Temperature can vary dramatically among neighborhoods, too, with low-income and predominantly Black and brown communities getting the hottest. Previous research show that land surface temperatures in Jacksonville neighborhoods that were discriminated against under redlining policies are now close to 10 degrees hotter than tree-heavy historic neighborhoods, which tend to be wealthier and mostly white. Zabow says the data collected through this heat mapping campaign will be more accurate because it measures more things.
ZABOW: So if you are to put your hand on the sidewalk, land surface temperature is how hot the sidewalk would feel. But this doesn't represent the human experience of heat.
RIVERS: She says you also need to look at air temperature, humidity, wind and more. And this heat mapping project does all that. Jacksonville will incorporate its heat map into a climate resilient strategy with things the city can do, like plant trees and protect green spaces. Chief Resilience Officer Anne Coglianese says an ongoing flood vulnerability study will factor into that strategy as well.
ANNE COGLIANESE: And we'll be able to layer these two data sources together, fold in some census data so that we have kind of a complete picture of what vulnerability looks like in Jacksonville.
RIVERS: Other places that are mapping their heat this year include Philadelphia, Nashville, San Francisco and Brooklyn.
For NPR News, I'm Brendan Rivers in Jacksonville, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.