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Advancing the Theory and Practice of Urban Heat Resilience

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Session Description: 


Urban heat is deadlier than nearly all other U.S. weather-related hazards combined, with risks increasing due to climate change and the urban heat island effect. During this summer’s record-breaking temperatures, urban heat is at the forefront of the national conversation on climate risk, intersecting with and compounding the COVID-19 pandemic, social inequity, and racial injustice. Fundamental research continues to advance understanding of the characteristics of resilient cities and their governance, but translating this knowledge about urban resilience into practice remains a challenge.

Despite decades of scholarship to document extreme heat impacts on quality of life, economic productivity, national security, physical and mental health, ecosystems, water and energy usage, and infrastructure, heat is a climate risk still without a mature governance structure for the 14,000 U.S. municipalities. While communities enhance their resilience to risks such as hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes with local land use controls, state and federal legal precedence, mapping resources, and national guidance, no comparable urban heat resources exist.

An Interdisciplinary Approach

Researchers within various disciplines have made significant advances to understand and model urban climate dynamics and document uneven public health impacts of heat. Less work has focused on the integration of these discipline-specific insights with the broader urban resilience literature to characterize a heat resilient municipality and its governance. This gap in understanding critically impacts the communities and organizations across the U.S. that are pursuing strategies to mitigate and manage urban heat in a largely ad-hoc and uncoordinated manner.

This workshop brings together the critical theories, methodological approaches, data, and practical knowledge from the wide range of academic and professional disciplines that influence urban heat resilience, including public health, emergency management, social services, urban planning, landscape architecture, architecture, geographic information systems, urban climatology, real estate development, utilities, climate service providers, and civil and structural engineers. The workshop will bring together traditionally siloed researchers and practitioners to identify the most pressing research gaps and synergies for informing a practice-driven research agenda on urban heat resilience.