Research: Estimating Heat Exposure through Personal Monitoring in Boston, MA, and Phoenix, AZ

Context: The CDC estimates over 600 people die from heat exposure in the US each year and many more are hospitalized for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke. Cities are hot places for many reasons (like replacing trees with buildings) but not everyone in the city is equally at risk of heat exposure. Estimating personal heat exposure is an important task so that we can focus resources on those most at risk. How variable is personal exposure to heat in a neighborhood or across a city? How can we measure this heterogeneity in heat exposure and what can we do with this information?

Action: I helped developed a new way of measuring personal heat exposure – by asking individuals to carry around tiny temperature sensors as they go about their daily lives (thus measuring their Individually Experienced Temperature or “IET”). I conducted research in Boston’s South End and in five Phoenix, AZ, neighborhoods to assess the variability of IETs during hot summer conditions.

These iButton temperature sensors are about the size of your thumb and can clip onto your belt loop!

Results: I found a surprising heterogeneity in IETs in both Boston and Phoenix and identified useful factors to help us understand why there were such differences between neighbors. In Boston, I organized a series of outreach events such as public lectures, a walking tour, a gardening class, a bingo game, and a curated Twitter presence (@temptalker #BYOThermometer). In Phoenix, we created Individual Reports for participants so they could compare their IETs with that of their neighbors. In December, 2019, we submitted a paper about analytical best practices for dealing with IET data.

A flyer for the walking tour I created to share results from my research

Click below for links and resources:

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