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  1. Abstract

    The City of Atlanta, Georgia, is a fast-growing urban area with substantial economic and racial inequalities, subject to the impacts of climate change and intensifying heat extremes. Here, we analyze the magnitude, distribution, and predictors of heat exposure across the City of Atlanta, within the boundaries of Fulton County. Additionally, we evaluate the extent to which identified heat exposure is addressed in Atlanta climate resilience governance. First, land surface temperature (LST) was mapped to identify the spatial patterns of heat exposure, and potential socioeconomic and biophysical predictors of heat exposure were assessed. Second, government and city planning documents and policies were analyzed to assess whether the identified heat exposure and risks are addressed in Atlanta climate resilience planning. The average LST of Atlanta’s 305 block groups ranges from 23.7 °C (low heat exposure) in vegetated areas to 31.5 °C (high heat exposure) in developed areas across 13 summer days used to evaluate the spatial patterns of heat exposure (June–August, 2013–2019). In contrast to nationwide patterns, census block groups with larger historically marginalized populations (predominantly Black, less education, lower income) outside of Atlanta’s urban core display weaker relationships with LST (slopes ≈ 0) and are among the cooler regions of the city. Climate governance analysis revealed that although there are few strategies for heat resilience in Atlanta (n= 12), the majority are focused on the city’s warmest region, the urban core, characterized by the city’s largest extent of impervious surface. These strategies prioritize protecting and expanding the city’s urban tree canopy, which has kept most of Atlanta’s marginalized communities under lower levels of outdoor heat exposure. Such a tree canopy can serve as an example of heat resilience for many cities across the United States and the globe.

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