Wet-Bulb Globe Temperature, Universal Thermal Climate Index, and Other Heat Metrics for US Counties, 2000–2020

Author: Keith R. Spangler, Shixin Liang, Gregory A. Wellenius

Year: 2022

Published in: Scientific Data volume 9, Article number: 326 (2022)

Epidemiologic research on extreme heat consistently finds significant impacts on human morbidity and mortality. However, most of these analyses do not use spatially explicit measures of heat (typically assessing exposures at major cities using the nearest weather station), and they frequently consider only ambient temperature or heat index. The field is moving toward more expansive analyses that use spatially resolved gridded meteorological datasets and alternative assessments of heat, such as wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT) and universal thermal climate index (UTCI), both of which require technical geoscientific skills that may be inaccessible to many public health researchers. To facilitate research in this domain, we created a database of population-weighted, spatially explicit daily heat metrics – including WBGT, UTCI, heat index, dewpoint temperature, net effective temperature, and humidex – for counties in the conterminous United States derived from the ERA5-Land gridded data set and using previously validated equations and algorithms. We also provide an R package to calculate these metrics, including gold-standard algorithms for estimating WBGT and UTCI, to facilitate replication.