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New heat exposure model can protect citizens

Katie Cowart

Increasingly extreme heat threatens the health and comfort of city dwellers. That’s why researchers from the University of Georgia have developed a new dynamic heat exposure index that captures varying heat exposure within urban environments.

“This is the first time a dynamic heat exposure model has been proposed, thanks in part to recent technological advances in sensing and big data,” said Deepak Mishra, professor, associate head of the geography department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and PI of the project. “We were able to develop heat sensing and communication setups in our lab, mount them on vehicles, acquire highly granular air temperature, and use open-source cellphone location data to develop a high-resolution thermal profile of campus and the city. This novel dynamic heat exposure modeling has big implications in the future as we move towards personalized heat exposure warnings on your cell phone.”

The index was developed by combining human movement patterns and heat hazard patterns, extrapolated using machine learning models from air temperature data measured by sensors mounted on 40 Athens-Clarke County and UGA buses in close collaboration with UGA Transportation Services and Athens Transit.

“The microprocessor-operated air temperature sensors are highly accurate,” said Mishra. “They take readings every five seconds, and we have roughly 20 million data points from over two years.”

While existing heat vulnerability maps are static, the DTEx can successfully identify high temperature spots and estimate dynamic heat exposure vulnerability when combined with cell phone derived foot traffic data.

“Other existing indices don’t have the dynamic of human movement, which lack the potential to show how the congregation of people might change the heat exposure distribution of the total population,” said Yanzhe Yin, the lead author of the study and doctoral student in the geography department.

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Image: Deepak Mishra by Peter Frey

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