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Scientists from the South Central CASC are part of a team of researchers mapping urban heat islands to identify the most at-risk areas in Oklahoma City.

Urban heat islands – areas in cities with little greenery and abundant pavement – can be up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than surrounding rural areas. With climate change intensifying extreme heat events, urban heat islands are expected to get even hotter, with implications for human health and for energy and water demands. Responding to urban heat challenges is crucial because over 80% of Americans live in urban areas. 

The South Central CASC researchers are collaborating with The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program, the Division of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, and OKC Beautiful, to support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ongoing Urban Heat Island mapping campaign. Oklahoma City was one of eighteen cities selected to be mapped in 2023. Researchers consider factors like urban design and demographics to develop a heat vulnerability index that will identify communities most vulnerable to heat island effects within the city.  

This SC CASC-supported work will aid city planning and community-driven initiatives. Maps of locations that experience the worst heat island effects can be used to optimize resource distribution to enhance climate resilience and public health.

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