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Sustainability News

View Source | July 20, 2018

Golden sunset with birds flying in the foregroundIt’s predicted to be 116 degrees in Tempe on Tuesday. Scorching.

That kind of extreme heat is a dangerous annual stress on city resources. Last year, the Tempe Fire Department responded to 141 calls for heat-related emergencies. There have been 84 heat-emergency calls so far this year.

So, Arizona State University researchers are working with the city of Tempe on ways to mitigate the effects on the people who live here. A team from the Urban Climate Research Center has several projects happening now, which the city discussed in a press conference on Wednesday.

Paul Coseo, an assistant professor of landscape architecture in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, researches urban climate design, which is the idea that cities should be designed more intentionally.

“I focus on issues here with the urban heat island and the problem we have with the way cities are built,” Coseo said. “Typically we’ve used way too much concrete and that makes our cities hotter.”

Ariane Middel, an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, also is working with the city of Tempe on how shade mitigates heat.

“Air temperature does not vary a lot but what varies is how we experience those temperatures and this experience is mainly driven by shade,” Middel said.

David Hondula, assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, said that Tempe is a leader in using statistics and research in setting policy to deal with the heat.

“The statistics allow us to dispel myths,” Hondula said. “Forty percent of heat-related deaths have an indoor place of injury. It’s hot outside for all of us and it’s hot inside for many of us.”

Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said that ASU has run workshops on dealing with extreme weather events for city staff and has connected Tempe with other cities and universities to address the issue.

“Tempe is taking the threat of climate change seriously and we are planning accordingly,” Mitchell said.