Cities have a lot of asphalt and concrete. This makes them get hot in summer – really hot. Cities can get up to 20 degrees F hotter than surrounding rural areas. This increase in temperature that cities experience is called an urban heat island. It's a big deal for many reasons, including threats to public health and excessive air conditioning use, leading to even more carbon dioxide emissions. Extreme heat also increases smog, violent crime, and is the cause of more fatalities than any other weather related event.
Image from Ecostress, NASA JPL, G.Hulley
In 2017, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) sent a sensor up to the International Space Station (ISS) called "EcoStress" that measures the temperature of the Earth's surface, making it perfect for monitoring urban heat in the summer. With temperatures increasing around the world, extreme urban heat is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable symptoms of excess urbanization and global warming, putting thousands of people's lives in danger, exorbitantly increasing the cost of climate-change induced damages, and causing massive CO2 emissions from AC. Our end goal is to help visualize this (in a way that leads to action) and put NASA's images of the world's urban heat islands on a freely available web-based map tool on urbancanopy.io
Like Google's Project Sunroof, but for surface temperature, we can put the data on a map to reveal the hottest properties and buildings in each city, and recommended local actions and tips people can do to cool their properties.
We're holding an Earth Hacks hackathon 17th & 18th October 2020
Want to get involved? Join us to help discover and map heat island images taken from space. We'll be holding a weekend long hackathon on Saturday October 17rd and Sunday 18th. If you love working on this project, interested participants can continue for the next 12 months. The EcoStress sensor is continually imaging the Earth, so there are always new urban heat islands images to discover and map! Learn more about Earth Hacks here.
Here are some more resources to keep learning about urban heat:
Learn about what we'll be doing in the hackathon in our tutorial