The climate crisis is driving higher temperatures and longer and more intense heat waves across America. Families who live in cities and towns can feel these impacts even more because of the urban heat island effect. Pavements and buildings absorb heat, which in turn increases air and surface temperatures. Planting and maintaining climate-appropriate trees and expanding greenscapes in urban communities can help counteract this effect, while also improving local air quality, protecting public health, creating safer, healthier neighborhoods, and expanding access to nature.
Anyone can use these tools to explore their community from a new perspective, increase their understanding of how climate change is impacting their lives, and consider opportunities for expanding greenscapes in their neighborhoods. Heat.gov is the premier federal source of information on extreme heat. Individual tools on the platform and other, related agency resources include:
President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is making unprecedented investments to tackle the climate crisis and mitigate its impacts on communities across the country, including by investing in urban and community forestry. New resources from the Inflation Reduction Act are now available to states, municipalities, Tribes, community organizations, nonprofits, universities, and more through the U.S. Forest Service. As government entities and local groups prepare to take advantage of this new funding, there are multiple Federal and private resources available to help identify how investments in urban green infrastructure will help combat extreme heat, and to better understand the risks posed by extreme heat and poor air quality.
- Heat Equity Mapper. Heat Equity Mapper allows communities that have conducted Urban Heat Island mapping with the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) to visualize the burden of extreme heat at the census tract level. By employing data from the White House Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, Heat Equity Mapper also shows users the difference in the burden of extreme heat between disadvantaged and not disadvantaged communities.
- Climate and Health Outlook. The Climate and Health Outlook provides a regional forecast for climate events such as extreme heat, flooding, wildfire, and drought to share how public health may be affected in the coming months. Related resources are provided to help health professionals and the public take proactive action.
- Heat and Health Tracker. The Heat and Health Tracker from the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC)provides local heat and health information to help communities better prepare for and respond to extreme heat events. By entering a zip code or county, users can look up historical and projected extreme heat data, monthly forecasts, daily and weekly heat-related illnesses, and more.
- Climate Explorer. Climate Explorer pulls information from global climate models to project changes in temperature, precipitation, and other variables through 2100. Users can download graphs and maps at the county or city level showing the changes expected under different climate scenarios.
- Vibrant Cities Lab. The U.S. Forest Service, American Forests, and the National Association of Regional Councils created Vibrant Cities Lab to help city managers, policymakers, and advocates develop successful urban forestry programs. The platform provides users with an Urban Forestry Toolkit, which includes materials for community assessment and goal setting, a tool library, and a funding action guide.
- NIHHIS Extreme Heat Vulnerability Mapping Tool. The Extreme Heat Vulnerability mapping tool, developed in collaboration with Esri, helps users analyze the intersection of social vulnerability and heat exposure by overlaying CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index and climate projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
- NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) Climate at a Glance. NCEI Climate at a Glance provides near real-time analysis of monthly temperature, precipitation, and other related data across the contiguous U.S. for the study of climate variability. Users can download time series, maps, rankings, and more for select cities, counties, states, regions and the nation.
- Climate Mapping for Resilience and Adaptation Portal (CMRA). CMRA enables users to track climate-related hazards in real-time , as well as access federal resources for long-term climate resilience planning. In addition to the CMRA live dashboard, the CMRA Assessment Tool shows how communities could be impacted by climate change over the next several decades.
- Heat Wave Climate Change Indicator. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has compiled downloadable, user-friendly data to examine the frequency, duration, season length, and intensity of heat waves in the United States as part of their Climate Change Indicators program.
- EPA’s Heat Island Effect Website. EPA’s website features information on how to mitigate the impacts of urban heat islands, including through trees and vegetation, green roofs, and smart growth practices. Users can also download social media graphics, factsheets, and other educational resources.
Recognizing the increasing impacts of extreme heat, the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and universities are also developing publicly available tools to support urban planning, community education, and climate-informed decision-making, including:
- Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer: Tree Canopy. Tree Canopy combines artificial intelligence and aerial imagery to help cities assess their current tree canopy coverage and better plan urban forestry initiatives. Tree Canopy is one of several tools available through Google’s Environmental Insights Explorer, a platform developed in partnership with climate and sustainability organizations to support subnational governments with their climate action and resilience planning.
- First Street Foundation’s Heat Factor Tool. Heat Factor shows users whether a property has previously experienced and is currently at risk to an extreme heat event, , as well as how that risk has and will continue to change over time. The tool also provides maps of where hot days are more likely to occur due to factors such as ground cover. Users are able to search by address, zip code, county, or city.
- Tree Equity Score. This mapping tool lets users look up the Tree Equity Score for their neighborhood. A Tree Equity Score is a metric that helps cities and communities assess how well they are delivering equitable tree canopy cover to all residents. The score is calculated at the Census Block Group level, aggregated to the municipal level, and derived from tree canopy cover, climate, demographic and socioeconomic data.
- The Heat Action Platform. The Heat Action Platform from Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center is a living, engagement-oriented tool for city officials, practitioners, and financial institutions to find guidance – both existing resources and tailor-made solutions – on reducing the impacts of extreme heat. The platform includes assessment, planning, and implementation modules, as well as a questionnaire through which users can begin to identify policy solutions for their communities.
- UC Berkeley’s Thermal Comfort Tool . The Thermal Comfort Tool, developed by the University of California Berkeley’s Center for the Built Environment, assists researchers, building practitioners, and policymakers in better understanding the conditions under which electric fans can be used to cool people safely.
- Climpact. Climpact is a software package that uses daily temperature and rainfall data to calculate the frequency, duration, and magnitude of various climate extremes that are relevant to the health, agriculture, and water sectors. Indices calculated by Climpact are available at both monthly and annual timescales.