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A new phase of Urban Heat Island observation


In 2022, the Urban Heat Island team at the University of Toledo and the City of Toledo started a new phase of observation and data collection at the neighborhood level with citizen scientists. This summer, the team purchased air temperature sensors, built devices to put them on cars, and drove alone on eight selected routes that covered both urban and rural areas of Toledo. 

The first time observation was on a clear day, July 30th, when there was a Landsat satellite overpass. The City of Toledo gathered a total of 31 citizen scientists, and 8 vehicles with drivers and navigators participated. We mapped the air temperature on that day and compared it with the land surface temperature acquired from the Landsat satellite. 

The second time observations were taken was with students and faculty in Geography and Planning from the University of Toledo, and Architecture students from Bowling Green State University in October. Twelve students participated in this observation and It was a tangible class activity for the students. 

This project started with a message from Beatrice Miringu, the Sustainability Coordinator of the city of Toledo, who expressed her interest in tree cover calculation earlier this year to Kevin Czajkowski, a professor at the University of Toledo and PI of GLOBE Mission Earth. One of the approaches to mitigate the urban heat island effect is to plant more trees in the city, Czajkowski said. “Accurate mapping of existing trees is the first step to determining where tree planting will be needed the most.” 

Working with citizen scientists is beneficial both to the research team and citizens. Czajkowski said, “Last summer, an undergraduate student and I did a project that was kind of similar, but we went to different schools and parks and took the surface temperature and air temperature using instruments, …we started [at] 11 am, then by the time we got to the last part, it was after 2 pm, so it was over a three-hour time period, and the temperature changes quite a bit during that three hours.” On one hand, the participation of engaged and well-trained citizen scientists can help collect more reliable data. On the other hand, the citizen scientists gained tangible experience, so urban heat island is not a theory to them anymore. 

Czajkowski said that his team will continue this observation next year with more detailed planning. “We actually did a little study to find out what time of day [has] the biggest difference in temperature between the urban and rural areas. And it turns out, it's more like 6 am. Right before sunrise, [the temperature] has the biggest … difference. But there's still a big difference after sunset. The sun goes down at about 8 or 9 o'clock, …so the rural area cools off much faster than the urban area,” Czajkowski said. 

Entering 2023, according to Czajkowski, in addition to the urban heat island observation, the team will continue the effort with more perspectives. On scientific research, the team will continue mapping the surface temperature and tree cover in Toledo with the City, as well as mapping artificial turf sports fields in Toledo and Detroit. Regarding educational outreach, the team will continue supporting elementary school, middle school, and high school teachers and students in STEM education and collaborate with the AREN Project on introducing and training teachers to interesting class activities related to urban heat islands. Moreover, following up on the new trend of painting parking lots by high school students in the country, the team is looking for new ways to engage high school students in urban heat island topics.