Houston to hold ‘largest single-day’ community-led heat mapping effort in U.S. history, officials say

HOUSTON – Recruited community street scientist volunteers will embark on a 300-square-mile effort Friday to measure and map urban heat in the region, officials said.

Right around when temperatures tend to hit their peak in Houston and Harris County, nearly 80 community scientists will take to the streets with specially-designed thermal sensors attached to their cars or bicycles.

This community science endeavor is led by the Houston Harris Heat Action Team (H3AT), a collaboration between The Nature Conservancy of Texas (TNC), Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), the City of Houston, and Harris County Public Health (HCPH), and in partnership with Lowe’s and Shell.

Officials say Houston and Harris County are currently facing a number of climate resilience and health challenges, and one of the most overlooked issues is urban heat.

“Houstonians do not prepare for heat like we prepare for hurricanes, but we should,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Houston is getting hotter, and we need science and data to help identify where the greatest impacts are, so we can keep Houstonians safer and our City more resilient. I thank Heat Watch, Lowe’s, Shell, and the Houston Harris Heat Action Team for partnering to do this extremely important work in our community.”

“I really wanted to come and get that hands-on feel in science and I’m really interested in looking at how science and the community can be integrated,” said volunteer McKenzie Roberts. “In the future, it can help people by ways of being able to understand what we mean by climate.”

“It helps also with just understanding the general health of our built environment, of our regular environment and of our social environment, too, like the aspects of health, respiratory issues and stuff like that, so it can help in numerous ways,” Roberts continued.

The volunteers will travel along prescribed routes to record temperatures and humidity at three specific times during the day (6-7 a.m., 3-4 p.m., and 7-8 p.m.). The project volunteers will cover 32 mapping areas, or “polygons,” that each represents a 10-square mile area.

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