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Groundwork Hudson Valley, City of Yonkers, and Citizen Scientists Team up to Map Extreme Heat in Yonkers

Post Date:07/22/2019 12:04 PM
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Community members will hit the streets of Yonkers this August to collect real-time data about the city’s hottest places as part of a national effort to map areas where people are most at risk during extreme heat waves. Yonkers was selected as one of eight U.S. cities supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office to run the citizen-science campaign to map urban heat islands. Cities were selected for support based in part on their readiness to mobilize community members to run the mapping campaign and on their ability and willingness to use the heat maps produced by the campaign to build resilience to extreme heat.

Working with equipment, methodology, and collaborators from CAPA Strategies and the Science Museum of Virginia, Groundwork Hudson Valley will mobilize community members to drive pre-selected routes through Yonkers three times in one day, collecting temperatures and GPS locations every second. Using specially designed thermal sensors mounted on their own cars, these citizen scientists will drive prescribed routes to record ambient temperatures and humidity. Collaborators will process the gathered data to produce high-resolution maps of temperature in the morning, afternoon, and evening across the city. Groundwork and the City of Yonkers will then use the maps to promote resilience-building actions.

In the US, heat waves injure more people than all other natural disasters combined. By measuring temperatures in tens of thousands of locations throughout the city, Groundwork and the City of Yonkers can identify what areas are hottest, and the reason behind those patterns. 

“As heat waves increase in frequency, duration and magnitude, engaging communities in such collaborative science efforts will help us know which communities will face the greatest burden, and engage those communities in taking proactive actions,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. “That knowledge will also help us develop preventative measures, involving organizations working in parks, sustainability, and public health to safeguard communities and infrastructure.”

Groundwork Hudson Valley’s Executive Director Brigitte Griswold said “Keeping cities cooler can involve a variety of actions, such as opening more public air-conditioned spaces; removing or whitewashing large areas of black asphalt or roof surfaces; adding more trees for shade; and engaging in urban designs to increase natural airflow through hot neighborhoods.”

The results from these community heat assessments in other parts of the country are already proving to better safeguard cities against extreme heat, and the data collected from this campaign will be instrumental in finding the most effective solutions for Yonkers residents.


Training and orientation for community members interested in participating will be provided by Groundwork Hudson Valley. Click here to learn more and click here to sign up to volunteer or join us on the day of the event.


 About Groundwork Hudson Valley


Groundwork Hudson Valley creates sustainable environmental change in urban neighborhoods through community-based partnerships that promote equity, youth leadership and economic opportunity. For twenty years, Groundwork has made neighborhoods more livable and sustainable through an array of on-the-ground environmental projects that directly involve local residents. We restore rivers and build trails, parks, and playgrounds. We engage community members in all of our work – with a particular focus on educating and employing young people.  For more information, contact Groundwork Hudson Valley at 914-375-2151 or visit their website


About the Heat Mapping Campaign:


What is being funded? The heat assessment project involves collecting high-resolution ground-level temperature data for the purpose of developing a detailed temperature map and associated GIS layers that takes into account the impact of land cover and topography on temperature. Deliverables provided by the project include maps of predictive surfaces, study data and GPS coordinates, and a final report describing the methods, results, and interpretations.


How does this mapping support future work? As noted in the community examples below, the information generated by this project ties into many existing programs and priorities, including: public health, energy efficiency/climate mitigation, climate preparedness, emergency management, urban forest management, land use planning, equity and social justice, and community partnerships and engagement.


●        Portland (OR) combined the heat mapping data with demographic information and air quality data to better characterize the risks of the urban heat island effect and poor air quality on vulnerable communities. The information is also being used to inform heat mitigation strategies such as cooling centers, drinking water distribution hubs, and adding trees.

●        Richmond (VA) is using the mapping to inform the next long-range city planning document (Richmond 300) and the next round of sustainability planning (RVA Green 2050).

How are the temperature data collected? Data are collected in three 1-hour blocks over the course of one day; the optimal temperature threshold for collecting data is ~90 degrees F or above. Data are collected by mounting a thermocouple device with a paired GPS unit on the passenger side of a car and driving the vehicle in one of up to 10 areas of Yonkers. Those data are then used to fill in the map for the rest of the city based on the statistical relationships between land cover and temperature. Groundwork staff, students and researchers, and community volunteers will serve as drivers and navigators.

Funding Sources The project is being fully funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Program Office.


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