This 3-part Masterclass includes a rapid review of what’s known about urban heat islands, and provide insights into considerations for choosing interventions to manage them.

Participants learned about the Urban Heat Island effect Tool tip The UHI effect is caused by cities replacing the heat buffering ecosystem services afforded by soil and vegetative evapotranspiration with heat-absorbing materials, wind-blocking & radiation trapping structures, and waste-heat from air conditioning, automobiles, and other sources. In some cases, this effect can drive temperature differentials of 10 degrees Celsius – from the urban core to the exurban periphery, but also within urban areas from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. – what causes it, how we map and model it, and what we can do about it. 

This masterclass series is complementary to the NASA ARSET Training: Satellite Remote Sensing for Urban Heat Islands, which ran in November 2020, and for which course materials are available online.

Target Audiences: Interested experts may include urban planners, designers, architects, sustainability/resilience officers, city government officials, urban climate scientists and other researchers.

Part 1: Understanding Urban Heat: Urban Climate Science Background

Part 2: Building Capacity and Awareness: Community Engagement & Empowerment

Part 3: Managing Urban Heat: Interventions and Evaluation


Part 1: Understanding Urban Climate and the Heat Island Effect

Session recordings

Learning objectives: To understand...

  • the essential elements of urban climatology for understanding the UHI effect
  • the different types of urban heat islands and their spatio-temporal characteristics
  • the most common observation and modeling approaches
  • the basics elements and nature of outdoor thermal comfort
  • the various metrics used to quantify outdoor thermal comfort
  • how climate-sensitive design can improve outdoor thermal comfort


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Further Resources

Part 2: Managing Heat Islands: Community Engagement & Environmental Justice

Session recordings

Learning objectives

  • Understand the multiple, complex impacts of urban heat islands on communities as well as the distribution of those impacts (EJ, air quality, etc.)
  • Discuss why outreach and engagement are important for issues such as this?
  • Learn how vulnerable communities can be meaningfully engaged, common challenges, and how they can be overcome.
  • Walk through two case studies of building community engagement through community science.


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Part 3: Taking Action: Where to intervene, what's most effective, and how we know

Session recordings

Learning Objectives

  • Understand how health outcomes serve as a indicator of heat vulnerability
  • Understand how land cover choices can measurably impact heat outcomes including temperature, humidity, air mass types, and heat-related illness and death
  • Understand how interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral partnerships can bridge research to practice
  • Understand how to identify specific desired outcomes, quantitative targets, and an evaluation approach for implementing UHI reduction strategies. (mitigating the hazard vs direct and indirect health impacts)
  • Review examples of interventions available to manage heat risk 
  • Explore effectiveness of interventions for specific settings, and discuss how one might assess their return on the investment.

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Expert Tutors

Ariane Middel

Arizona State University

Ariane Middel is an Assistant Professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering at Arizona State University. Her research interests lie in the interdisciplinary field of urban climate with focus on climate-sensitive urban infrastructure in the face of extreme heat and climatic uncertainty. She directs the SHaDE Lab, which explores the “hot” topic in three dimensions: heat as it can be sensed by instruments; heat as it is experienced by humans; and heat as it can be modelled using microclimate simulations. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the International Association of Urban Climate (IAUC) and is a Board member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Built Environment.

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David Sittenfeld

Museum of Science, Boston

David has been an educator at the Museum for 20 years and oversees special projects pertaining to issues that lie at the intersection of science and society. He is also completing his doctoral research at Northeastern University in the Helmuth Lab, focusing on participatory methods and geospatial modeling techniques for environmental health assessment and public engagement. He is the principal investigator for Citizen Science, Civics and Resilient communities project, which is supporting community-based science-to-civics activities at 30 US science centers on extreme heat, drought, extreme precipitation, and sea level rise.

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Edith de Guzman

Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative and UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability

Edith de Guzman investigates best practices for the sustainable transformation of the Los Angeles region, where her work has included groundbreaking research, demonstration projects, and public planning in areas of urban forestry, heat mitigation, and urban watershed management. Edith co-founded and directs the Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative, a multi-disciplinary, national partnership of universities, nonprofit organizations, community groups and government agencies focused on designing data-driven, inclusive strategies for cooling urban areas using trees and highly-reflective surfaces. She recently finished a stint as Director of Research at Los Angeles-based nonprofit TreePeople, and is currently a PhD student at the UCLA Institute of the Environment & Sustainability. Edith received a master's in Urban Planning, also from UCLA.

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Heinke Schlünzen

Universität Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Heinke Schluenzen is Professor for Meteorology at the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg, where she heads the mesoscale and microscale modelling group. Her research focusses on local and regional scale atmospheric processes resulting from direct human impacts, with emphasis on direct anthropogenic effects (e.g. growing urban areas, regenerative energy production), and influences of adaption and mitigation measures on the regional and urban climate and of climate change and extreme events on the urban system. Heinke is a meteorologist by training, with a strong emphasis on model development and model evaluation. She is member of the scientific advisory group of WMO-GURME, where she currently coordinates a new guide on urban heat islands. She is also coordinating the development of environmental meteorology guidelines in Germany; these guidelines concern urban climate as well as air quality and are co-developed with relevant stakeholders and often used in national legal frameworks. She is member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the climate research cluster of excellence CLICCS (Climate, Climatic Change, and Society) and in the coordination team of the interdisciplinary urban research project "Water from 4 sides" in CLICCS.

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Jennifer Vanos, PhD

Arizona State University

Dr. Jennifer Vanos is an Assistant Professor in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. She focuses on extreme heat, thermal comfort, and air pollution in her research, and examines health impacts on vulnerable populations, such as children and athletes. She is currently running numerous field projects in Arizona and collaborates with schools, government, and non-profits in community-based research. Dr. Vanos is an active member of the Urban Climate Research Center at ASU and a Scientific Advisor for the Korey Stringer Institute. She currently serves on the Executive Board of the International Society of Biometeorology and is the Chair of the Board on Environment and Health for the American Meteorological Society (AMS). She completed her PhD in 2012 at the University of Guelph in Canada and her Post-Doctoral degree with Health Canada.

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Jeremy Hoffman

Virginia Commonwealth University

Dr. Jeremy Hoffman is the Chief Scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia and Affiliate Faculty in the L. Douglas Wilder School and the Center for Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Hoffman specializes in connecting audiences to their changing planet through community science campaigns, interactive media, dynamic exhibitions, and hands-on experiences. His research has focused on assessing exposure to extreme heat in US urban areas and how this exposure relates to long-term planning policy and neighborhood design.

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Malcolm Eadie

Monash University

Malcolm has over 25 years’ experience in the water resources sector having held Senior Management and Directorship positions in commercial consulting practices. His focus is on promotion of integrated water and land use planning for cities and towns to be sustainable, resilient, productive and liveable. At the CRCWSC, Malcolm leads interdisciplinary teams of researchers and consulting partners to translate emerging research into practice.

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Mark Siebentritt

Edge Environment

I’m Director of Commercial and Expansion at Edge, leading our work to grow our service offering in the Asia Pacific region. I was a co-founder of Seed Consulting Services which merged with Edge in 2019 and I am also a Director of agricultural and NRM data acquisition and analytics firm AirborneLogic. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Science with Honours and a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Adelaide. I have held various roles on non-profit Boards and Committees and I’m a graduate of the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation’s Murray-Darling Basin Leadership Program. My interest in sustainability took off at a young age, influenced by reading David Suzuki’s various books, growing up on a small farm in the Adelaide Hills and spending time camping on the River Murray. My specialties are in climate change risk assessment and planning, liveable cities, strategic planning and stakeholder engagement. I have experience from a broad range of sectors including state and local government, agriculture, health, energy and My favourite projects are the ones that bring together technical, planning and engagement work to address complex sustainability challenges like tackling climate change and creating cool cities. I enjoy being part of having the “hard discussions” that often need to occur to drive sustainability forward in both the corporate and community spheres. In previous roles I worked as the Operations Manager for a water trading firm and also held several roles at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority related to environmental water management and delivery. When I’m not working I enjoy spending time with my wife and three children, which tends to involve running around at various weekend sporting events. If I’m lucky I might even get in a run, spot of fishing or catch a game of AFL!

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Matthias Roth

National University of Singapore

Matthias Roth is a Professor in the Department of Geography at the National University of Singapore. He holds a Diploma from ETH, Zurich (Switzerland) as well as MSc and PhD degrees from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver (Canada), all in Physical Geography. His research examines how land-use changes affect local climates with a particular focus on the climate of cities and the role they play in climate change. As an experimental researcher he has conducted observations of the urban heat island, energy balance, carbon dioxide fluxes and fundamental turbulence properties in cities located in North America, Europe and Asia. Besides fundamental aspects of the surface-atmosphere exchanges, he is increasingly interested in the application of such knowledge to the climate-sensitive design of cities. He is Past President of the International Association for Urban Climate (IAUC), Associate Editor of the International Journal of Climatology and a member of the editorial boards of Urban Climate and Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography.

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Vivek Shandas

CAPA Strategies

Dr. Vivek Shandas specializes in developing strategies for addressing the implications of climate change on cities. His teaching and research examine the intersection of exposure to climate-induced events, governance processes, and planning mechanisms. As an interdisciplinary scholar, Dr. Shandas studies the emergent characteristics that generate vulnerability among communities and infrastructure. Theoretically, he views cities as grand experiments that are socially constructed, and can vary in their capacities to adapt to changing social and ecological conditions. Empirically, Dr. Shandas examines the human and planetary forces that facilitate (or inhibit) collective response. As such the broad aims of his teaching and research are to identify threats to planetary habitation, and shape landscapes to improve urban environmental quality.

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Christopher Boyer

University of Washington

Christopher Boyer is a researcher at Center for Health and the Global Environment (CHanGE) and PhD student in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the University of Washington, where he focuses on the health impacts of and adaptation to climate variability and change. With GHHIN he will support coordination and communication activities and is excited for the opportunity to engage with GHHIN members and support capacity and resilience building actions. In particular, he looks forward to exploring the monitoring and evaluation of adaptation interventions, such as Heat Action Plans and early-warning systems, to build resilient health systems. He has extensive experience in low-resource settings collaborating with governments and stakeholders to better understand and develop plans to address climate-related health risks. He has also worked as a consultant with the World Health Organization to support member states in Southeast Asia and the Pacific in building climate-resilient health systems. He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia (2011-2014). Chris earned his Master of Public Health with a concentration in global health from the University of Washington in 2017.

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Hunter Jones

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Hunter M. Jones is the Deputy Director of the Climate and Health Program in the Climate Program Office (CPO) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He leads the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) program, overseeing team initiatives such as, the NIHHIS Centers of Excellence, and the NIHHIS Urban Heat Island Citizen Science Field Campaign program. Since 2017, NIHHIS and partners in NOAA's Office of Education and Climate Program Office have empowered communities to map, model, and understand how heat is distributed throughout their communities and informing action to develop equitable climate resilience. Hunter's broader focus with NIHHIS is on program building, including budgeting, staffing, public affairs, and other strategic initiatives such as Hunter is the vice-Chair of the American Meteorological Society's Board on Environment and Health as well as a founding member of the Global Heat Health Information Network (GHHIN), serving on its Management Committee. Hunter develops new climate services for health capacity at NOAA and through international science diplomacy. He recently completed an Embassy Science Fellowship focused on improving climate services for dengue forecasting in Costa Rica and throughout South & Central America and the Caribbean, and continues to support development of disease forecasting capabilities at nationally and internationally. Hunter holds a BS in Computer Information Systems from Bentley University, a Master's in Environmental Management from Duke University, and is a PhD candidate at the University of Nebraska Medical Center focused on Bayesian ecological modeling of vector-borne diseases and disease vectors.

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Sari Kovats

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Sari Kovats is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health, Environments and Society in the Faculty of Public Health and Policy. She has been researching the effects of weather, climate and climate change on human health for more than 20 years and has published widely on this topic. Her particular areas of interest include health impact assessment of climate change and epidemiological studies of the effects of climate, weather and weather events in urban and rural populations.

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