The road to heat resilience

The road to heat resilience

February 14, 20242 min read

University of Delaware researchers are leading a heat mapping project to address the urban heat island effect caused by climate change. Dana Veron and A.R. Siders, co-directors of the Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub, have laid out a plan of action that aims to understand the heat distribution, particularly in vulnerable communities.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, extreme heat is the number one cause of weather-related death in the United States, making urban heat islands a significant public health concern.

In an effort to tackle this issue head on, Veron and Siders – who are also professors at UD – have been working with UD’s Center for Environmental Monitoring and Analysis (CEMA) and Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) to map heat in Wilmington, Delaware.

The 2023 WiST (Wilmington and Surrounding Townships) Heat Watch has been in the works since late 2021. The initial proposals were developed by CEMA and DNREC. UD’s Climate Hub became the coordinating entity soon after.

“This was our first externally funded project that allowed the Hub to serve the role we envisioned for it, as a central point of contact and communication, a facilitator networking amongst many partners across different sectors,” said Dana Veron,

High heat-absorbance in urban areas leads to increased energy consumption, emissions, and strains on energy systems. The mapping project is part of a broader trend in urban sustainability planning and cooling strategies, driven by the need to mitigate the urban heat island effect.

The researchers anticipate using the data to influence future city planning, incorporating green infrastructure to reduce the urban heat island effect. The Climate Hub team plans to present the preliminary results in a virtual town hall meeting, emphasizing the importance of community engagement and collaboration in addressing climate-related challenges. The campaign demonstrates the potential for universities to lead collaborative efforts and engage students in climate research and community outreach.

Dozens of other Heat Watch campaign teams have incorporated their findings into climate and heat mitigation strategies. In Virginia, Richmond officials have made heat vulnerability and urban heat islands a determining factor in their upcoming city and sustainability planning endeavors. In New Jersey, the city of Newark introduced several proposals offering equitable solutions to heat emergencies, including increased funding for cooling centers and urban green spaces.

Every Heat Watch mapping campaign develops a report detailing heat distribution across the target city. Digital maps that display predictive heat-index models mindful of land coverage and topography are also publicly released.

“This is the beginning of the work,” said Veron. “All the partners are anxious to get the map because what’s really exciting is what happens next.”

To set up an interview with Veron or Siders, visit their profiles and click the "contact" button.

Connect with:
  • Dana E. Veron
    Dana E. Veron Professor, Geography and Spacial Sciences; Co-Director, Gerard J. Mangone Climate Change Science and Policy Hub

    Prof. Veron's research interests include climate change impacts, polar and coastal climate and climate change education.

  • A.R. Siders
    A.R. Siders Core Faculty, Disaster Research Center; Assistant Professor, Biden School of Public Policy and Administration

    Prof. Siders' research focuses on climate change adaptation policies with an emphasis on managed retreat.

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