The City of Oklahoma City is seeking hundreds of volunteers to be a part of a national campaign to map extreme heat in urban areas.
More than 300 people are needed to capture temperature and air quality data across the city along predetermined routes during the early morning, late afternoon and evening.
Volunteers aka street scientists will attach equipment to their vehicle’s window and drive along an assigned route, measuring air temperature, air quality (particulate matter) and tracking location. Volunteers will be matched in groups of three, including a driver, a navigator and a backup.
Once the route is completed, volunteers will return the equipment to a designated location for the next volunteer group to use. The campaign will take place on one of the hottest days of the year, tentatively set as Aug. 12, depending on weather conditions. A backup date is planned for Aug. 26. Volunteer training will be held virtually 5:30-6:30 p.m. June 27, 12-1 p.m. July 13 and 5:30-30 p.m. July 27.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chose Oklahoma City as one of 18 communities selected to participate in the 2023 NOAA Urban Heat Island (UHI) mapping campaign. City Council approved the grant award for the project June 6.
Urban heat islands — areas with few trees and more pavement that absorbs heat — can be up to 20 degrees hotter than neighborhoods with more trees, grass, and less black asphalt. Extreme heat events are the deadliest weather-related events nationwide, according to NOAA. Some groups are more vulnerable to heat, including the elderly, children, pregnant people, low-income and minority populations, and those with heart-and lung-related health conditions, diabetes and obesity, among other conditions.
In addition to the one-day volunteer event, the City’s Office of Sustainability and researchers with three colleges from the University of Oklahoma will host education and awareness workshops. OU’s Colleges of Landscape Architecture, Public Health and Geography are also conducting research on heat vulnerability in Oklahoma City.
The first workshop will be held 10:30-11:30 a.m. July 8 at The Auditorium at The Douglass, 600 N High Ave.
Once data collection is completed, a NOAA contractor, CAPA Strategies, will create a report for local decision-makers, planners and health organizations to take action to reduce the health impacts of extreme heat.