Volunteer effort collects data on Columbus' urban heat island
About 200 volunteers hit the road Friday with sensors attached to their cars, in an effort to collect detailed climatological data on Columbus neighborhoods.
The science project was part of a national campaign to map urban "heat islands."
Geddy Davis is program coordinator for climate services at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State.
He explains heat islands occur mainly in urban areas, which typically have greater densities of pavement and buildings and relatively less tree cover.
Urban areas in the summer will typically be anywhere from two to six degrees Fahrenheit warmer than surrounding rural areas, Davis said.
But in extreme cases, Davis said, there can be up to 20 degrees of temperature variation between or within urban areas.
Extreme heat kills more Americans than any other weather event, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
"There are increases of cases of respiratory distress, there are issues with vulnerable populations and the elderly, who have trouble with standing that intense of heat," Davis said.
He points to a recent study in which Columbus topped the list of fastest-growing urban heat islands among 60 U.S. cities.
"The Columbus region has seen a lot of rapid growth and rapid development, which has, of course, its pros, economically, it's improved some living conditions in some neighborhoods, but it's also kind of helped compound this effect."
The data collected will be used to create detailed maps of Columbus' heat island designed to help improve resource distribution to help keep neighborhoods cooler.
Columbus was one of 15 U.S. cities and two international communities that took part in this year's NOAA-led effort to map heat inequities.