The intent of this proposed research is to assess the potential for climate-responsive design strategies to mitigate the heat-related health impacts of climate change in large U.S. cities over a multi-decadal planning horizon. Specifically, this project will model the influence of alternative land development scenarios on temperature change in three major metropolitan areas of the United States between 2010 and 2050 and quantify the effects of each scenario on public health outcomes related to two classes of heat-related exposure: high levels of ambient heat and intensified concentrations of air pollution. In light of recent research finding the rate of warming in many large urban areas to be equal to or greater than that of the planet as a whole - a trend attributed to rapid growth in the urban heat island effect (UHI) - this project will investigate the potential for aggressive UHI abatement strategies, including the widespread enhancement of urban vegetation and surface reflectivity, to counteract warming trends brought about through continued urban development and the global greenhouse effect. As excessive temperatures are now responsible for more annual fatalities, on average, than any other form of extreme weather, there is a critical need to investigate the potential for land use planning in cities to abate projected warming trends. The research approach for this study consists of four principal steps: 1. Employ satellite imagery to model regional land cover change associated with a historically-driven """"""""business as usual"""""""" and alternative climate-responsive design scenarios across three geographically and morphologically diverse metropolitan areas between 2010 and 2050;2. Quantify with a regional-scale meteorological model the effects of metropolitan land cover change associated with each urban development scenario on air temperature, humidity, and windspeed;3. Estimate regional concentrations of tropospheric ozone (O3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in response to future year meteorological conditions (reflective of each land cover scenario), emissions inventories, and regional climate parameters derived through a global climate model (GCM);4. Estimate by individual and combined land cover scenarios changes in regional population morbidity and mortality in response to two climatologically driven factors: heat exposure and enhanced air pollution.

Public Health Relevance

This study will quantify the impact of climate change on heat-related threats to public health resulting from a greater incidence of excessively hot days and an intensification of air pollution within cities. The results of this research are intended to improve public health in cities by identifying specific land use planning strategies related to regional vegetative cover and surface reflectivity designed to minimize the intensity of the urban heat island effect and to improve urban air quality.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZEH1-FXR (04))
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Mehta, Paul
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Georgia Institute of Technology
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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Stone Jr, Brian; Vargo, Jason; Liu, Peng et al. (2014) Avoided heat-related mortality through climate adaptation strategies in three US cities. PLoS One 9:e100852
Stone Jr, Brian; Vargo, Jason; Liu, Peng et al. (2013) Climate change adaptation through urban heat management in Atlanta, Georgia. Environ Sci Technol 47:7780-6