Photo Credit - Kirk Fisher
In the Spring of 2022, the Gonzaga Climate Center was awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization’s (NOAA) National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) to conduct a community science urban heat island mapping campaign in July of 2022. This opportunity will allow the City of Spokane to study the impacts of extreme heat in Spokane and develop local strategies to alleviate the impacts of heat on the community. The second phase of the project will then be to conduct a community survey to understand perceptions of urban heat and extreme heat events in Spokane. Using these quantitative and qualitative data, we can begin to make both short- and long-term plans for extreme heat events to be more resilience to our changing climate. Read the press release.
EXTREME HEAT IN SPOKANE
Extreme heat in Spokane refers to days with temperatures at or above 90° Fahrenheit and nights with temperatures at or above 68° Fahrenheit. On hot days and nights, people are at risk for heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Some parts of the community are more vulnerable to extreme heat than others; this includes seniors, young children, pregnant women, people with certain health conditions, low-income communities, communities of color, people without access to air conditioning, and outdoor workers.
To date, extreme heat is the deadliest weather hazard in the US, responsible for more deaths each year than hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding. The CDC reports that every year in the US an average of 65,000 Americans are admitted into emergency rooms1 and more than 600 are killed2 due to extreme heat-related illness. Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. In addition to preparing residents for the high summer temperatures that are common in the Inland Northwest , Spokane Beat the Heat will also work with partners to reduce the impacts of urban heat islands and prepare the community for future rising temperatures.
"Extreme heat kills more Americans than any other weather event and has the greatest impact on our nation's most vulnerable communities," said Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves. "Fortunately, our talented and dedicated researchers and scientists at NOAA are working directly with communities across the country to help them take action to manage extreme heat. As climate change worsens heat waves, this critical information will help bring local and equitable solutions for those facing the greatest threats."
URBAN HEAT ISLANDS
On sunny days, dark building materials like concrete, asphalt, and dark rooftops retain more heat from light, causing those surfaces and surrounding areas to be hotter. As a result, areas with more buildings and parking lots often experience higher temperatures due to the urban heat island effect. However, strategies like increasing green space, trees, and using lighter-colored building materials can help cool down these heat islands. The urban heat island effect is made worse by climate change. It is not a cause of climate change.3On July 16th, 2022 over 85 community members volunteered from across the City to help map urban heat islands. During the mapping campaign, 7 of the 17 heat mapping routes (more than 40%) were conducted in electric vehicles. The heat mapping campaign covered the City of Spokane and the maps will be shared here by mid-September.
COMMUNITY SURVEYCalling all Spokane residents! We need your help to understand how community members experience extreme heat in Spokane by taking our survey.
SUPPORT EXTREME HEAT PLANNING
- City of Spokane Emergency and Disaster Information: Severe Weather
- Plan and prepare for extreme heat: ready.gov
- "Addressing Extreme Heat in Spokane" a report by Owen Hart
The urban heat island mapping project is a collaborative effort involving:
- Gonzaga Center for Climate, Society, and the Environment
- Spokane City Council Sustainability Action Subcommittee
- The Lands Council
- 350 Spokane
- Kris Crocker, Chief Meteorologist with KXLY (local ABC News affiliate)
1 USGCRP (U.S. Global Change Research Program). 2016. The impacts of climate change on human health in the United States: A scientific assessment. https://health2016.globalchange.gov.
2 CDC, "Natural Disasters, Severe Weather, and COVID-19," https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html
3 Skeptical Science, "Does Urban Heat Island effect exaggerate global warming trends?" https://skepticalscience.com/urban-heat-island-effect.htm