Related Research Areas
Climate Variability & Change

Extreme heat is a leading cause of weather-related human mortality in the United States and in many countries world-wide. Despite the advances in meteorological forecasting capabilities and the widespread prevalence of air conditioning systems across the U.S., extreme heat persists as a threat to human health. As global warming patterns continue, researchers anticipate increases in the severity, frequency and duration of extreme heat events. Recent studies on climate impacts demonstrate that climate change will have differential consequences in the U.S. at the regional and local scales. Research priorities in public health and climate change science communities call for addressing the current impacts of weather hazards on human health, and for preparing for future risks and threats in a warmer climate. The proposed project addresses the critical need for information at regional to local scales that are pertinent to public health decision-making in the context of global change. The primary goals of the proposed work are to: 1) advance methodology for assessing current and future urban vulnerability from heat waves through integration of physical and social science models, research results, and NASA data; and 2) develop a System for Integrated Modeling of Metropolitan Extreme Heat Risk (SIMMER) for building local capacity for heat hazard mitigation and climate change adaptation in the public health sector. The SIMMER project builds on previously conducted studies of the Urban Heat Island (UHI), urban heat waves, and societal vulnerability to extreme heat, and advances the state of knowledge as follows: 1) The SIMMER will employ state-of-the-art climate modeling methodology, downscaled to regional and local levels, to produce new knowledge about changes in extreme heat events across the United States and parts of Canada as a result of changing climate, land use and the interactions among them. 2) The project will fill in critical research gaps in identifying urban vulnerability to extreme heat through improved quantitative and qualitative characterization of sensitivity, exposure and adaptive capacity. Proposed spatially explicit representation of populations' adaptive capacity presents a significant improvement of vulnerability assessment methodologies. 3) The proposed SIMMER will quantify the uncertainty in predictions of future heat health outcomes. 4) The project will produce several new local and regional scale datasets that would be made available to a broader research community. The proposed work is the necessary step toward an enhanced ability to develop proactive programs focused on extreme heat risk management in the context of changing climate. One of the strengths of this project is the emphasis on the validation of the SIMMER methodology. Collaboration with a Toronto team will ensure that the methodology developed for Houston, TX is transferable and can be directly applied in public health decision-making. Additionally, the global nature of NASA's data products allows our generalized framework to be portable worldwide. The proposed project relies heavily on the use of NASA Earth Science products and directly supports NASA's objective to promote interdisciplinary research that addresses societal impacts of extreme disturbances.

Project PI: Olga Wilhelmi/University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Institute for the Study of Society and Environment National Center for Atmospheric Research 3450 Mitchell Lane Boulder, Colorado, USA 80301

Phone: (303) 497-8126

Fax: (303) 497-8125



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Started: Sep 29, 2010

Last Activity: Jan 05, 2011


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