On Saturday, Aug. 6, Richland County will join a nationwide effort to collect heat data, gathering information that could point to potential dangers when temperatures hit extreme levels.
Throughout the day – in the morning, afternoon and evening – a group of 20 or so volunteers will use special vehicle-mounted sensors to record temperature, humidity and their precise location as they drive along pre-planned routes across the County. The data they collect will help map urban heat islands, or places where buildings, pavement and other parts of urban environments amplify high temperatures, putting people at higher risk of illness and death on especially hot days.
“Richland County is growing rapidly, and the expanding residential, commercial and transportation infrastructure contribute to areas where temperatures are much warmer than nearby rural areas,” said Quinton Epps, division manager for the County’s Community & Planning Development Department.
“This study will help demonstrate to local governments and others where we need to preserve undeveloped land and trees, plant additional trees or build other green infrastructure to reduce or prevent heat islands in Richland County,” Epps said.
When the study is complete, expected to be in late October, a publicly available report and digital mapping data will show variations in temperature and humidity that community leaders can use in making decisions to improve quality of life for Richland County residents.
For Saturday’s project, volunteers’ vehicles will display bumper stickers with the words “Heat Watch: Science in Motion” along with the visible sensors.
Extreme Heat’s Impact
The heat-mapping initiative aims to improve understanding of and guide action to reduce heat health risks, encourage economic development and boost the area’s quality of life overall.
While Richland County and the surrounding area have plenty of hot days in the summer – Columbia averages high temperatures of 95 in July and 93 in August – an extreme heat event, or heat wave, is a persistent period of unusually hot days. In extreme heat, the body has to work extra hard to maintain a normal temperature, which can be fatal. Older adults, children and sick or overweight people are at greater risk from extreme heat.
Find ways to prepare for extreme heat online: www.ready.gov/heat.
More on the Project
The Columbia area is one of 14 picked to participate in the heat-mapping effort by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s Climate Program Office, the interagency National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) and CAPA Strategies LLC, a data analytics company. With the cities of Columbia, West Columbia and Cayce participating along with Richland County, organizers expect to cover 190 square miles in the central Midlands.
Funding from the Richland County Conservation Commission, Columbia Green and the NIHHIS will go toward equipment, organizational efforts and data processing for the project. That support will also go toward stationary temperature and humidity sensors to help participants gather more information later this summer.
To learn more about the national program, visit www.capastrategies.com/heat-watch.