Citizen Science Project to Collect Real-Time Extreme Heat Data This Summer in Worcester

Worcester, Mass. – August 5, 2019 – Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the EcoTarium museum of science and nature, and the City of Worcester will collaborate to gather data to map the hottest places in the city to better plan community resiliency related to heat waves, which is an increased threat due to climate change.

Community members, students, university faculty, and city staff will hit the streets of Worcester during the next heat wave this summer to collect real-time data as part of a regional effort to map places where people are most at risk during extreme heat waves.

On a designated day with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees F, eight citizen scientists will drive their own vehicles along prescribed routes on city streets three times – in the morning, afternoon and the evening. Specially designed thermal sensors, provided by CAPA Strategies company, will be mounted on the passenger side of the cars to collect ambient temperatures and location data. Those data will then be used to create a high-resolution map of ground-level temperatures in the city that will take into account the impact of land cover and topography. The city area not covered by the vehicles will be filled in based on the statistical relationships between land cover and temperature.

Once the map is completed, it can be used as a planning tool to prioritize areas needing most attention during a heat wave. Keeping cities cooler can involve a variety of actions, such as opening more public air-conditioned spaces; removing or whitewashing large areas of black asphalt or roof surfaces; adding more trees for shade; increasing the areas of green space; and engaging in urban designs to increase natural airflow through hot neighborhoods.

Worcester is one of a number of communities in the country and the state that has recently conducted or is planning to conduct similar heat mapping projects, including Boston and Cambridge.

Training and orientation will be provided by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute team and EcoTarium to on-call participants to get them ready to collect data once a date for the data gathering is called.

The project is funded by the Global Lab of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office.

For more info on the methodology and process, go to CAPA Heat Watch.

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