Mapping Boston Hot Spots, Block By Block – wbur

Written by Miriam Wasser

While you’re layering on sweaters and pulling out winter coats, many in the urban planning world are thinking about heat. That’s because cities — with all their buildings and pavement — tend to get hotter than surrounding areas during the day, and stay hotter at night.

Extreme heat can be dangerous, even deadly. It currently kills hundreds of Americans every summer and sends tens of thousands more to the emergency room. And climate change is making the problem worse — last July was the hottest on record. Boston currently experiences about a dozen days over 90 degrees every summer. By 2100, the city could get 90 days above 90 degrees, making it feel more like Birmingham, Alabama.

This coming change has public health officials worried. But in order to prevent heat-related illnesses, cities and communities first need to know exactly where the hot spots are. Last summer, the Museum of Science embarked on a citizen science project to do just that.

On some of the hottest days during July and August, about 50 volunteers drove predetermined, carefully mapped loops in 10 areas around Boston, Cambridge and Brookline with a long white contraption jutting out from their car. The device resembles a selfie stick, but it is actually a high-tech thermometer with GPS that allows analysts to map hot spots down to a specific street corner, where even the shade of a big tree matters.

Most heat maps use satellite data to plot surface temperature. What makes this project unique is that the sensor is collecting both temperature and humidity data, and it’s doing it about 5 or 6 feet off the ground. As a result, the project will capture how we actually perceive heat.

Read more here.

By Jessica Yap-Chung
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