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Volunteers to help create heat map for Salt Lake City this weekend

Posted at 10:07 PM, Jul 11, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. Wei Zhang, an assistant professor of climate science at Utah State University, is leading a project team of scientists and volunteers in developing heat index maps.

Salt Lake City is one of the hottest "Urban heat islands" in the U.S., he said.

“These can really help us to understand the distribution of extreme heat, and we can identify which communities are most subject to this heat," said Zhang.

The project, funded by NOAA, requires Zhang to recruit volunteers to be citizen scientists and help collect the data this Saturday, July 15, when it will be close to 100 degrees.

“If you think about going up into the mountains into the neighborhoods that have greater tree canopy, you might have cooler temperatures," said Dr. Daniella Hirschfeld, an assistant professor of environmental planning at USU. "And if you go towards the airport where you have less tree canopy, a lot of black dark surfaces, a lot of buildings, they trap the heat, you're going to have much higher temperatures.”

Volunteers will drive along specific routes in Salt Lake City over three separate one-hour periods, using a data collection device attached to their car.

“It's really about engagement, and this data later on can be used for urban planning and can be used to develop more heat regions in communities, and also to address some public health problems or air pollution," said Zhang.

Hirschfeld expects the map will confirm her observations of environmental injustice.

“The neighborhoods that are likely to have the highest heat on Saturday are also the neighborhoods that have the lowest income brackets and a lot of minority populations," she said.

Salt lake city is one of several cities involved in NOAA's global effort to address heat inequities across the country.

The professors are still recruiting volunteers for data collection for this Saturday. Volunteers will get a $25 gift card for helping. You can sign up to volunteer here.