September 22, 2019
On September 21, Arizona State University and the City of Tempe conducted Tempe’s first Heat Walk: a community event orchestrated to help city officials and ASU researchers understand how residents experience heat in their neighborhoods, parks and multi-use paths. According to Jennifer Vanos, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainability and senior sustainability scientist the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, “Our goal is to ensure that public spaces that are meant to be used for activity, play and active transport are thermally comfortable and safe from extreme heat for as much of the day and year as possible."
Vanos added that the back-and-forth exchange between community members, the City of Tempe and ASU researchers "provides powerful information for both use-inspired and research-based heat mitigation techniques that can help us achieve this goal now and plan for the future.”
The event was a success, drawing about 50 residents, some who had lived in Tempe for years and some who were new to the area. Participants, including Tempe Vice Mayor Lauren Kuby and representatives from the Arizona Department of Public Health, walked along a pre-determined path and provided input and feedback on their experience in the park and neighborhood. Groups of attendees were provided with a few thermal infrared thermometers so they could see the great variability in the temperature of different materials (like concrete versus grass) and the impact of shade on those temperatures as well.
Researchers asked questions about thermal perception, park design, street and sidewalk design, arterial walls, playgrounds, and the way outdoor yards are designed. ASU Emergency Medical Services (student EMTs) also volunteered their services to ensure everyone was safe.
For the next steps, the researchers, which include ASU professors David Hondula, Ariane Middel and Paul Coseo will analyze the thermal comfort responses from each participant during the walk, the microclimate data along the route, and each group’s exposure to sun and shade. With that information, they will be able to understand current conditions and inform the City of Tempe about effective improvements for heat mitigation, which can then be included in the city's Climate Action Plan.