As part of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges’ Heat Watch project, EcoAction Arlington volunteers (from left) Marissa O'Neill and Aisha Husain joined Executive Director Elenor Hodges, holding sensor devices that measure ground level heat.
Photo courtesy of EcoAction Arlington
Enduring dangerously high temperatures, Marymount University student Bader Hakami and biology professor Susan Agolini spent a day working as community scientists. The collected data that will help locate northern Virginia's heat islands, urban areas that experience higher temperatures than suburban neighborhoods.
Volunteers from Northern Virginia, including students, faculty and representatives from EcoAction Arlington and the Virginia Department of Forestry, recorded air temperatures and humidity using handheld thermal sensors. Their work was part of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges’ (VFIC) Heat Watch project.
“The information that we gather can better inform policymakers and urban planners as they allocate funding for green spaces and invest in urban designs that can minimize the heat islands,” said Susan Agolini, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Biology, Marymount University.
More than 20 students, faculty and volunteers from northern Virginia joined the project as part of their commitment to protecting the environment.
“I participated in ‘Heat Watch’ because I wanted to give back to the community,” said Bader Hakami, a nursing student at Marymount. “I learned how the heat-mapping process is conducted and most importantly how the information might be put to good use for the environment.”
July 2021 was the world's hottest month ever recorded, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. ‘Heat Watch’ was conducted on July 15.
Previous VFIC collections have revealed temperature differences as significant as 16 degrees between the coolest and hottest areas. Heat islands are often found in low-income communities, says Agolini.
Poor housing conditions including lack of air conditioning and small living spaces put these communities in danger of heat-related illnesses and deaths.
“Being aware of these heat islands can also help health care providers and advocates know which areas, and therefore populations, are going to be most susceptible to heat-related health issues,” she said.
Angelino estimates that the group will be able to identify heat island within the next eight weeks