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Warren to lead regional efforts for statewide heat mapping project this summer

Karin Warren

Karin Warren

Karin Warren, Randolph College’s Herzog Family Professor of Environmental Science, will lead regional efforts over the summer for a statewide project studying how heat varies across communities.

The project, called Virginia Heat Watch, will study where residents are most at risk during extreme heat waves.

Warren also will discuss the topic later this month during Virginia Academy of Science’s spring meeting; her talk, “Assessing and Addressing Community Climate Resilience,” will be the organization’s yearly Negus Memorial Lecture.

“An essential piece of resilience planning is understanding how climate risk and vulnerability are experienced in our community,” said Warren, who was part of the core team that developed the project with the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC). “This summer’s heat mapping campaign will reveal how our urban heat island varies across the city, and this knowledge will inform community-based, equitable strategies to address heat vulnerability and climate resilience. Randolph will be an active partner in developing those strategies.”

To gather data, students, faculty, and volunteers from more than a dozen colleges and universities across the state will use specially designed thermal sensors to record air temperatures and humidity at certain times of day. The work will require them to drive, bike, and walk along designated routes, often during the hottest parts of summer.

Warren will work with participants from Randolph, the University of Lynchburg, Sweet Briar College, Roanoke College, and Hollins University. She’s leading the Lynchburg team alongside University of Lynchburg professor Laura Henry-Stone and Sweet Briar professor Lisa Powell.

At Randolph, she and Michelle Starks ’22 will be organizing the volunteer heat mapping campaign and exploring community-based energy strategies to address heat risk as part of a project for the College’s Summer Research Program.

Other VFIC member schools participating in the study include Bridgewater College, Emory & Henry College, Hampden-Sydney College, Marymount University, Shenandoah University, University of Richmond, Virginia State University, and Virginia Wesleyan University.

The Virginia Department of Forestry and the Science Museum of Virginia are also among the project’s partners.

A final report for each locality will be issued, describing the methods, results, and interpretations. Previous heat mapping studies have found temperature differences as large as 16 degrees between the coolest and hottest places at the same time, with cities’ historically red-lined areas most vulnerable.

The data will be valuable to many fields, including public health, energy efficiency, climate change mitigation and resilience, emergency preparedness and management, urban forestry, land use planning, equity and social justice, community partnerships, and student engagement.

“Community science initiatives like this heat mapping campaign have contributed immensely to our understanding of how environmental stressors are not felt equally across communities here in the commonwealth,” Jeremy Hoffman, chief scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia, said in a news release. “We look forward to supporting these community-focused projects, which not only help students connect science theory with real-life resiliency strategies they can apply in their communities, but also build social cohesion and help train the future green workforce.”

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