J3.3 Determining Social Mechanisms of Extreme Heat Vulnerability in Phoenix, Arizona

Tuesday, 24 January 2017: 2:00 PM
Conference Center: Tahoma 5 (Washington State Convention Center )
Paul Chakalian, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

Many articles have demonstrated correlations between heat-related mortality and morbidity and variables such as poverty, membership in a minority class, and locations with little vegetation. Data from the Phoenix Area Social Survey (PASS), sponsored by Central Arizona – Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research project, has demonstrated high spatial, socio-economic, and socio-demographic variability in health impacts from extreme heat in the Valley of the Sun. Continuing on this work, new methods were implemented in summer 2016 that attempt to expose the specific mechanisms at play in these correlations. What adaptive behaviors do people use to cope with thermal discomfort and avoid heat illness? What individual characteristics (e.g., knowledge, wealth, proximity) and structural constraints (e.g., building type, energy pricing, access) explain variation in respondents’ exposure, risk perceptions, thermal discomfort, and behavioral adaptations to extremely hot weather? How can exposing these mechanisms help inform policy that encourages more resilient communities? We developed a novel approach to answering these important questions by combining a complex sampling strategy with underused qualitative and quantitative data-gathering techniques. 

This presentation will outline some of the key results from PASS, which covers approximately 40 phoenix metro neighborhoods from 2000-2011, and then explain the enhanced methods we are now using to uncover the specific social mechanisms that explain variable extreme heat vulnerability in Phoenix, AZ. Most importantly, the presentation will discuss ways we can employ a deeper understanding of these mechanisms to increase the adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities.

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