Hyperlocal mapping within urban heat islands for future forecasting – Science Nation

[♪♪] Miles O’Brien:
On this hot afternoon, remote sensing scientist Deepak
Mishra and his team are at the University of
Georgia Campus Transit Bus Yard installing a temperature sensor
on the front of a bus. Deepak Mishra:
We’re able to do this research because of the revolution
in sensing technologies, the explosion
in data science research. Miles O’Brien:
At the peak of summer, about 30 buses
will be similarly wired up. Deepak Mishra:
We’re collecting temperature data from these buses,
every five seconds, as they go around the campus,
go around the town. Miles O’Brien:
Volunteers, mostly students, are pitching in too
with wearable sensors strapped to their
backpacks and belts. Deepak Mishra:
And, then we start seeing how these temperatures
are changing across town. Which areas are consistently
showing high temperatures, and what happens
in the evening time, what happens in the nighttime? Andrew Grundstein:
32 is about 90 Fahrenheit. Student: Yes… Miles O’Brien:
With support from the National Science Foundation,
the University of Georgia team is compiling highly detailed,
fine-resolution maps showing what’s called
the “Urban Heat Island” in their town
of Athens, Georgia. Andrew Grundstein:
Heat is the leading weather killer.
It kills more people every year than tornadoes,
hurricanes, floods. Miles O’Brien:
Scientists have known about the Urban Heat
Island effect for decades, making maps
from satellite data. Heat islands are urban areas
that are hotter than their less
developed surroundings, mostly because
they’re largely devoid of trees. Dark surfaces, like roads
and rooftops absorb heat, and radiate it back out. Some parts of a city can be
as much at 15 degrees hotter than others. Deepak Mishra:
This project is going beyond that to see what is happening
within the urban heat island. Miles O’Brien:
Usually when you check the weather, you get one temperature
reading for a whole city, but what if you could know
the temperature on a block-by-block,
street-by-street basis? Deepak Mishra:
So, we’re trying to figure out how this temperature changes
at a very fine scale. So, that people
can better prepare. Miles O’Brien:
Geographer Andrew Grundstein studies how weather
and climate affect human health. He says hyperlocal heat maps
could save lives by pinpointing pockets
of extreme heat. Andrew Grundstein:
Heat stroke is the most serious heat “thing.” Your organs can shut down.
It can be life-threatening, so we really want
to prevent people from getting into that point. Miles O’Brien:
Particularly at risk are the elderly, children,
athletes, people with chronic medical
conditions like diabetes, and those who do
physical labor outside. Andrew Grundstein:
People that, say, can’t afford
air-conditioning or don’t have air-conditioning
can be at risk. Some research shows
that poor communities are often in hotter parts
of the cities because they don’t have
as much green space. Miles O’Brien:
Computer scientist Lakshmish Ramaswamy
is the lead on the data gathering and analysis. They’ve designed
a smart phone app to make the wearable
sensors easy to use. They need clean data
to make the maps reflect real
on-the-ground conditions. Lakshmish Ramaswamy:
Okay, this particular sensor, somebody carried it, maybe they
put it in their pocket or maybe they put it
in their backpack? So, the data that is
coming out is anomalous. Can we detect that using data
mining algorithms, machine learning algorithms? Miles O’Brien:
Only then can they use the dataset
to make fine-tuned inferences and predictions
about temperature variations over short distances
within a city. Lakshmish Ramaswamy:
Long term, can we predict what is the exposure profile of a particular individual
or a particular community? For example, the community
of city workers who are doing the roadwork, or the garbage collectors
out there. What kind of heat exposures
are they facing? Miles O’Brien:
This project in Athens is a small-scale experiment, but Mishra expects
these heat maps will be commonplace
in the future. City planners will use them
to decide where to plant trees. Communities can use them
to make sure people at risk have access to water
and air-conditioned spaces. Deepak Mishra:
I see a day when people have
this app in their phone, and then the phone tells them
“take this route, you’ll be less exposed
to urban heat.” Miles O’Brien:
Using data to drive better decision-making
when the heat is on. For Science Nation,
I’m Miles O’Brien.

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