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ASU is lead partner in new national Center for Heat Resilient Communities

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ASU is one of the three leading partners for the Center for Heat Resilient Communities, which will receive $2.25 million in funding. The center’s goal is to develop and implement a framework to support communities in determining the best strategies for local heat mitigation and management. ASU photo

May 20, 2024

Summer is upon us, and Arizonans know the drill. They wake up each morning, check the weather app on their phone and then brace themselves for the intense temperatures each day has in store.

While Arizonans may think they have long dealt with the heat, communities’ strategic planning for extreme heat is a relatively new endeavor.

Portrait of Sara Meerow.
Sara Meerow

“As the planet warms, communities everywhere are experiencing unprecedented hot weather, including record-breaking heat waves and a longer heat season,” said Sara Meerow, associate professor at ASU's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

“Heat is already a leading cause of climate and weather-related deaths. Until recently, it received less attention in policy and planning than other more visible hazards, like flooding, at all levels of government.”

Thanks to a $4.5 million National Integrated Heat Health Information System grant from the Department of Commerce and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, two virtual centers of excellence — the Center for Collaborative Heat Monitoring and the Center for Heat Resilient Communities — will study extreme heat and support community heat monitoring and resilience initiatives. These funds are derived from the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act.

Arizona State University is one of the three leading partners for the Center for Heat Resilient Communities, which will receive $2.25 million in funding. Together with the University of California, Los Angeles Luskin Center for Innovation and the University of Arizona, this center’s goal is to develop and implement a Heat Resilient Communities Framework to support communities in determining the best strategies for local heat mitigation and management.

“The Center for Heat Resilient Communities will focus on helping communities in identifying, preparing for, mitigating and responding to the negative impacts of extreme heat,” Meerow said. “We will guide communities through a process of developing heat resilience goals, heat-related indicators, heat plan evaluation and development, heat modeling, benefit-cost analysis for strategies to address heat and community engagement. We will evaluate and refine the process as more communities participate.”

Meerow has done extensive research on how to make cities more resilient in the face of climate change and other social and environmental hazards. She will serve as one of three co-leads at The Center for Heat Resilient Communities. Several other ASU researchers will also contribute to the work of the center.

Both centers will focus on the Biden administration’s commitment to the Justice40 Initiative, ensuring that federal agencies work with local communities and states to deliver 40% of benefits from this federal investment to disadvantaged communities.

“Disadvantaged and marginalized communities often experience hotter temperatures and lack the resources to adapt to them, like indoor cooling. As a result, they are burdened with higher rates of heat-related illness and death. Local governments in disadvantaged communities also often have fewer resources to plan for heat,” Meerow said.

Past heat mapping campaigns have helped inform city sustainability plans, public health practices and urban forestry plans. However, these new centers will interact more with the communities they work with to share data, resources, ideas and best practices.

“Some cities, especially here in Arizona, are trying innovative approaches to enhance their resilience to heat. We need to study these efforts to help the communities that have not yet begun to plan for heat or that lack the resources to do so,” Meerow said.

Read the full press release on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website.

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