skip to main content


Title: Mixed methods assessment of personal heat exposure, sleep, physical activity, and heat adaptation strategies among urban residents in the Boston area, MA
Abstract

The growing frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events necessitates interventions to reduce heat exposures. Local opportunities for heat adaptation may be optimally identified through collection of both quantitative exposure metrics and qualitative data on perceptions of heat. In this study, we used mixed methods to characterize heat exposure among urban residents in the area of Boston, Massachusetts, US, in summer 2020. Repeated interviews ofN = 24 study participants ascertained heat vulnerability and adaptation strategies. Participants also used low-cost sensors to collect temperature, location, sleep, and physical activity data. We saw significant differences across temperature metrics: median personal temperature exposures were 3.9 °C higher than median ambient weather station temperatures. Existing air conditioning (AC) units did not adequately control indoor temperatures to desired thermostat levels: even with AC use, indoor maximum temperatures increased by 0.24 °C per °C of maximum outdoor temperature. Sleep duration was not associated with indoor or outdoor temperature. On warmer days, we observed a range of changes in time-at-home, expected given our small study size. Interview results further indicated opportunities for heat adaptation interventions including AC upgrades, hydration education campaigns, and amelioration of energy costs during high heat periods. Our mixed methods design informs heat adaptation interventions tailored to the challenges faced by residents in the study area. The strength of our community-academic partnership was a large part of the success of the mixed methods approach.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1735087
NSF-PAR ID:
10473771
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
BMC Public Health
Date Published:
Journal Name:
BMC Public Health
Volume:
22
Issue:
1
ISSN:
1471-2458
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Global cooling capacity is expected to triple by 2050, as rising temperatures and humidity levels intensify the heat stress that populations experience. Although air conditioning (AC) is a key adaptation tool for reducing exposure to extreme heat, we currently have a limited understanding of patterns of AC ownership. Developing high resolution estimates of AC ownership is critical for identifying communities vulnerable to extreme heat and for informing future electricity system investments as increases in cooling demand will exacerbate strain placed on aging power systems. In this study, we utilize a segmented linear regression model to identify AC ownership across Southern California by investigating the relationship between daily household electricity usage and a variety of humid heat metrics (HHMs) for ~160000 homes. We hypothesize that AC penetration rate estimates, i.e. the percentage of homes in a defined area that have AC, can be improved by considering indices that incorporate humidity as well as temperature. We run the model for each household with each unique heat metric for the years 2015 and 2016 and compare differences in AC ownership estimates at the census tract level. In total, 81% of the households were identified as having AC by at least one heat metric while 69% of the homes were determined to have AC with a consensus across all five of the heat metrics. Regression results also showed that ther2values for the dry bulb temperature (DBT) (0.39) regression were either comparable to or higher than ther2values for HHMs (0.15–0.40). Our results suggest that using a combination of heat metrics can increase confidence in AC penetration rate estimates, but using DBT alone produces similar estimates to other HHMs, which are often more difficult to access, individually. Future work should investigate these results in regions with high humidity.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Accelerated urbanization increases both the frequency and intensity of heatwaves (HW) and urban heat islands (UHIs). An extreme HW event occurred in 2012 summer that caused temperatures of more than 40°C in Chicago, Illinois, USA, which is a highly urbanized city impacted by UHIs. In this study, multiple numerical models, including the High Resolution Land Data Assimilation System (HRLDAS) and Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model, were used to simulate the HW and UHI, and their performance was evaluated. In addition, sensitivity testing of three different WRF configurations was done to determine the impact of increasing model complexity in simulating urban meteorology. Model performances were evaluated based on the statistical performance metrics, the application of a multi‐layer urban canopy model (MLUCM) helps WRF to provide the best performance in this study. HW caused rural temperatures to increase by ∼4°C, whereas urban Chicago had lower magnitude increases from the HW (∼2–3°C increases). Nighttime UHI intensity (UHII) ranged from 1.44 to 2.83°C during the study period. Spatiotemporal temperature fields were used to estimate the potential heat‐related exposure and to quantify the Excessive Heat Factor (EHF). The EHF during the HW episode provides a risk map indicating that while urban Chicago had higher heat‐related stress during this event, the rural area also had high risk, especially during nighttime in central Illinois. This study provides a reliable method to estimate spatiotemporal exposures for future studies of heat‐related health impacts.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    In the US, more than 80% of fatal cases of heat exposure are reported in urban areas. Notably, indoor exposure is implicated in nearly half of such cases, and lack of functioning air conditioning (AC) is the predominant cause of overheating. For residents with limited capacity to purchase, maintain, and operate an AC system, or during summertime power outages, the ability of buildings to maintain safe thermal conditions without mechanical cooling is the primary protective factor against heat. In this paper, we use whole-building energy simulations to compare indoor air temperature inside archetypical single-family residential buildings without AC at the start and middle of the century in eight US cities. We ran the models using hourly output from 10 year regional climate simulations that explicitly include heating from mid-century projections of urban development and climate change under a ‘business-as-usual’ emissions scenario. Moreover, to identify the impacts from evolving construction practices, we compare different versions of building energy standards. Our analysis shows that summertime overheat time may increase by up to 25% by the middle of century. Moreover, we find that, while newer building energy codes reduce thermal comfort under moderate outdoor weather, they perform better under extreme heat.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Increases in population exposure to humid heat extremes in agriculturally-dependent areas of the world highlights the importance of understanding how the location and timing of humid heat extremes intersects with labor-intensive agricultural activities. Agricultural workers are acutely vulnerable to heat-related health and productivity impacts as a result of the outdoor and physical nature of their work and by compounding socio-economic factors. Here, we identify the regions, crops, and seasons when agricultural workers experience the highest hazard from extreme humid heat. Using daily maximum wet-bulb temperature data, and region-specific agricultural calendars and cropland area for 12 crops, we quantify the number of extreme humid heat days during the planting and harvesting seasons for each crop between 1979–2019. We find that rice, an extremely labor-intensive crop, and maize croplands experienced the greatest exposure to dangerous humid heat (integrating cropland area exposed to >27 °C wet-bulb temperatures), with 2001–2019 mean rice and maize cropland exposure increasing 1.8 and 1.9 times the 1979–2000 mean exposure, respectively. Crops in socio-economically vulnerable regions, including Southeast Asia, equatorial South America, the Indo-Gangetic Basin, coastal Mexico, and the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, experience the most frequent exposure to these extremes, in certain areas exceeding 60 extreme humid heat days per year when crops are being cultivated. They also experience higher trends relative to other world regions, with certain areas exceeding a 15 day per decade increase in extreme humid heat days. Our crop and location-specific analysis of extreme humid heat hazards during labor-intensive agricultural seasons can inform the design of policies and efforts to reduce the adverse health and productivity impacts on this vulnerable population that is crucial to the global food system.

     
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Continued climate change is increasing the frequency, severity, and duration of populations’ high temperature exposures. Indoor cooling is a key adaptation, especially in urban areas, where heat extremes are intensified—the urban heat island effect (UHI)—making residential air conditioning (AC) availability critical to protecting human health. In the United States, the differences in residential AC prevalence from one metropolitan area to another is well understood, but its intra-urban variation is poorly characterized, obscuring neighborhood-scale variability in populations’ heat vulnerability and adaptive capacity. We address this gap by constructing empirically derived probabilities of residential AC for 45,995 census tracts across 115 metropolitan areas. Within cities, AC is unequally distributed, with census tracts in the urban “core” exhibiting systematically lower prevalence than their suburban counterparts. Moreover, this disparity correlates strongly with multiple indicators of social vulnerability and summer daytime surface UHI intensity, highlighting the challenges that vulnerable urban populations face in adapting to climate-change driven heat stress amplification.

     
    more » « less