Exposure to extreme heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States, with more than 10,000 Americans succumbing to heat exposure each year. The Urban Climate Lab is partnering with large cities to answer two questions related to a the rapidly increasing risk of heat. First, what neighborhoods are most at risk to heat illness? And, second, what climate adaptation strategies are most effective in reducing heat exposure and saving lives?
Through the use of high resolution urban climate modeling tools, the UCL can map heat risk at the neighborhood level. As illustrated in this map, both the level of heat exposure over the course of a hot summer and the resulting number of heat fatalities can be estimated for each urban neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky – one of the most rapidly warming cities in the United States. Our work in Louisville and other large cities finds that the number of heat deaths each year could be substantially reduced through extensive tree planting and the use of reflective “cool” roofing on buildings. Our heat risk and health work has been featured in The New Yorker and The Guardian.