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FRAMINGHAM – The results from an Urban Heat Mapping Campaign led by Framingham State University’s Christa McAuliffe Center in July are in, providing hard evidence of the increased burden of extreme temperatures on people living in urban areas.

A team of 42 volunteers gathered nearly 50,000 temperature measurements on July 13th, 2023 along 7 routes through Framingham, Natick, Ashland and Holliston. During the hottest period of the day, temperatures along more urban portions of the route came in at 91.1 degree Fahrenheit, versus 80.9 degree Fahrenheit in less urban areas.

“Though limited to one summer day only, this snapshot in time of temperature distribution gives us a clear picture of how the burden of extreme heat is not shared equally among our community,” says Dr. Irene Porro, Director of the McAuliffe Center. “Residents living in urban, densely populated areas face greater exposure to extreme heat. These residents also tend to be less likely to have the resources to protect themselves from this exposure.”

The data gathered in July was synthesized and put into a report by CAPA Strategies, a company specializing in climate adaptation planning and analytics. Community stakeholders can now use the information in the CAPA report to plan more in-depth studies in support of mitigation and adaptation strategies, according to Porro.

“This is just the first step in the process,” she says. “Ultimately we want this data and the new studies the data will inform to help the local municipalities involved to generate policy recommendations to promote long-term, equitable solutions.”

Using this data, local communities can investigate the relationships between heat and the built environment using land use, canopy cover and impervious surface data; assess social vulnerability factors like age and income; and calculate impacts in specific sectors such as energy and public housing, according to CAPA Strategies.

“The data may help identifying priority areas for tree planting, planning resilience hubs in high-need areas, or understanding how much heat is present along transportation routes to schools,” the company wrote in its executive summary.

The Heat Mapping Campaign is part of the 2023 National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has provided funding to Climate Adaptation Planning and Analytics (CAPA) Strategies to support campaigns for communities in 2023.

The effort has involved a close collaboration between Framingham State University’s McAuliffe Center as the lead organizer, and officials and volunteers from the City of Framingham and Towns of Ashland, Holliston and Natick.

Demonstrating the heat mapping instruments.