Landscape-Based Extreme Heat Vulnerability Assessment

Journal of extreme events cover.

Assistant professor of urban planning Zoé Hamstead and collaborators use mapping to predict the effects of extreme heat in New York City.

Extreme heat is becoming an increasingly dangerous threat to urban residents. However, unlike hazards such as storm surges which have been well studied by agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Commission in the United States, communities lack basic knowledge of where extreme heat threats are likely to have the most impact, and who is likely to be most affected. Here, this study applies a mapping approach to identify areas of New York City where people are likely to be particularly vulnerable to extreme heat-related health effects based on both exposure to biophysical elements that exacerbate heat, and sensitivity to heat-related health impacts. Unlike most studies that develop indicators of heat vulnerability at Census-based aggregations, this study disaggregates population data to a fine scale, in order to more precisely identify vulnerable communities. Using a landscape-based indicator that links exposure to properties of the urban built and natural landscape, this study develops an approach for informing land-based strategies for mitigating micro-urban heat islands. The paper's findings indicate that African Americans and households living below the poverty line are disproportionately exposed to high surface temperatures. This study illustrates an approach for identifying multiple dimensions of vulnerability to extreme heat with improved location precision, in a way that informs spatially strategic extreme heat mitigation efforts.


Zoé Hamstead, Assistant Professor
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, UB

Carson Farmer, Department of Geography
University of Colorado Boulder

Timon McPhearson
Urban Systems Lab, The New School, New York City
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden


Extreme Events

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