Climate experts, local leaders gather to discuss impacts of extreme weather

weather experts present findings to Sustainable Cities Network members

On Jan. 8, Arizona State University's Sustainable Cities Network and the American Meteorological Society convened municipal and nonprofit leaders in order to discuss the impacts of extreme weather on local government.

Held at the Sheraton in downtown Phoenix as part of the American Meteorological Society annual conference, this gathering was an exclusive session for Sustainable Cities Network members to meet and learn from climate experts.

Attendees came from planning, public works, community development and other city departments in order to gain insights on this pressing topic. Local level policymakers were also present from the cities of Goodyear, Casa Grande and Tempe. In total, 13 communities and public sector agencies were represented from around the Valley and state, in addition to representation from one nonprofit organization.

The event featured a diverse panel of experts from organizations such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Arizona, Portland State University, the University of Chicago and many more. Panelists also came from various academic backgrounds and presented on a variety of topics, describing the effects of extreme weather on human health, economies and urban infrastructure.

The broad range of speakers provided attendees with a holistic perspective of some of the issues Arizona's communities are currently facing, and will face in the future. Municipal attendees were provided an opportunity to ask clarifying questions, especially in terms of how climate facts and predictions relate to decision-making at the municipal level.

Increases in both temperature and the intensity of precipitation events were discussed in the context of the infrastructure required to sustain a high quality of life with these predicted changes. Arizona is already known for having extreme weather as a norm, so coping with further changes is something that panelists viewed as vital.

On the topic of the urban heat island effect, Mary Hayden with the National Center for Atmospheric Research discussed the importance of mapping cooling centers in the urban core. Amir Jina with the University of Chicago discussed Arizona’s predicted rising future mortality rate due to extreme heat. This is already a pressing issue, as the Maricopa County Public Health Division estimated that 1,050 cases of heat-associated mortality occurred in an eight-year period from 2006-2013.

Discussion of mitigation and adaptation strategies focused on city- and region-specific solutions. Panelists fielded questions on several different topics, such energy usage, water scarcity, climate modeling and climate communication. Attendees found the information helpful in aiding decision-making and providing uniform narratives on climate science and its greater impacts.

The Sustainable Cities Network is a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Saritha Ramakrishna,
Sustainable Cities Network
Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability