Extreme Heat and Human Health: Science-Policy Interface

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Tuesday, 4 February 2014: 11:00 AM
Room C112 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Olga Wilhelmi, NCAR, Boulder, CO; and M. H. Hayden, J. Boehnert, and U. L. Lauper

Extreme heat is a leading cause of weather-related human mortality in the United States and in many countries world-wide. As global warming patterns continue, researchers anticipate increases in the severity, frequency and duration of extreme heat events. Many cities may have amplified vulnerability to extreme heat due to urban heat island and rapidly evolving socioeconomic fabric. This raises a series of questions about the increased health risks of urban residents to extreme heat, and about effective means of local-level extreme heat mitigation and climate adaptation. In this presentation, we will discuss an interdisciplinary NASA-funded project aimed at addressing these questions via the System for Integrated Modeling of Metropolitan Extreme Heat Risk (SIMMER). We will highlight the SIMMER research results on the combined impact of extreme heat and the characteristics of urban environmental and social systems on human health in Houston, Texas and Toronto, Canada, and focus on the opportunities to build local capacity for heat hazard mitigation and climate change adaptation in the public health sector. The presentation will focus on a researcher-stakeholder dialog and describe the process of stakeholder engagement in the heat-health studies. We will present key findings from the Houston stakeholder workshop and discuss the connections between the SIMMER science the needs of decision-makers. We will also demonstrate a GIS-based tool that is aimed at communicating complex, multidisciplinary concepts of urban extreme heat vulnerability to public health practitioners and aid in public health interventions.