A Multi-level Analysis of Extreme Heat in Cities

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Virginia Tech


As a result of climate change and urbanization, rising temperatures are causing increasing concern about extreme heat in cities worldwide. Urban extreme heat like other climate-related phenomena is a complex problem that requires expertise from a range of disciplines and multi-faceted solutions. Therefore, this study aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of urban heat issue by taking a multi-level approach that integrates science, technology, and policy. Throughout the three main papers of this dissertation, a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods, such as microclimate modeling, machine learning, statistical analysis, and policy content analysis, are used to analyze urban heat from different perspectives. The first paper of this dissertation focuses on the street canyon scale, aiming to identify the physical and vegetation parameters that have the greatest impact on changing thermal conditions in urban environments and to understand how these parameters interact with each other. Moving towards identifying applicable heat-related data and measurement techniques, the second paper assesses whether lower-resolution temperature data and novel sources of vulnerability indicators can effectively explain intra-urban heat variations. Lastly, the third paper of this dissertation reviews heat-related plans and policies at the Planning Districts level in Virginia, providing insights into how extreme heat is framed and addressed at the regional and local levels. This analysis is particularly important for states such as Virginia, which historically have not experienced multiple days of extreme heat during summers, as is common in southern and southwestern states of the United States.

The results of this study provide insights into the contributing and mitigating factors associated with extreme heat exposure, novel heat-related data and measurement techniques, and the types of analysis and information that should be included in local climate-related plans to better address extreme heat. This dissertation explores new avenues for measuring, understanding, and planning extreme heat in cities, thereby contributing to the advancement of knowledge in this field.



Extreme heat, urban heat, heat mitigation, heat measurement, heat-related policies and plans