bright sun above the clouds

Raleigh Joins NOAA and Community Scientists to Map Urban Heat Inequities

Raleigh has joined the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), The County of Durham, the NC Climate Office, NC Museum of Life and Science, NC Museum of Natural Sciences, Activate Good, and others in a community-led campaign to map the hottest parts of the city.

Extreme heat kills more Americans than any other weather event, but not everyone’s risk is the same. Within the same city, some neighborhoods can be up to 20°F hotter than others. This is due largely to the practice of historic redlining—discriminatory, race-based lending and housing policies of the 1930's. These hot spots are often home to poorer communities of color.

Heat Tracking

To learn where action is needed to protect vulnerable populations now and in the future, NOAA’s National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) and partners are launching new campaigns that will map the hottest parts of cities in 11 states across the country this summer. Raleigh and Durham join Albuquerque, New Mexico; Atlanta; New York City; Charleston, South Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; San Diego; San Francisco; and parts of New Jersey, Indiana, Massachusetts, and Virginia.

Using heat sensors mounted on their own cars or bikes, community volunteers, led by a team of local partners in each city, will traverse their neighborhoods morning, afternoon, and evening on one of the hottest days of the year. The sensors will record temperature, humidity, time, and the volunteers’ location every second. NOAA’s National Weather Service will provide forecasts to help the communities plan their campaigns.

Community Action

Addressing urban heat islands is already a priority within Raleigh’s Strategic Plan and its Community Climate Action Plan. This project will help Raleigh identify the areas of the city where heat is experienced most strongly. From there, Raleigh will work to develop options that mitigate heat, in particularly with communities that are most affected. Cities from past campaigns have used the heat maps to inform heat-mitigation decisions, educate residents and policymakers, and direct research on effective solutions.

“Communities are taking action to manage dangerous extreme heat that’s impacting their families and neighbors,” said Hunter Jones, Climate and Health Project Manager with NOAA’s Climate Program Office. “As climate change brings worsening heat waves, the information from these campaigns will help bring local and equitable solutions to those facing the greatest threat.”

“Our Nation faces a growing climate crisis that has exacerbated inequities, particularly for the low-income and communities of color,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo. “The Biden-Harris Administration is ready to take swift action to tackle climate change, and we at the Department of Commerce are so pleased to be partnering with communities around the country toward equitable climate resilience by working with them to design safer, more livable, and healthier cities.” 

How You Can Stay Informed

The project will take place during the window of mid-June to late-July, depending on optimal weather conditions. It will also raise awareness among volunteers and residents about heat risk, incorporate local perspectives to produce heat maps, and engage communities in pursuing solutions.