Montgomery Co. chosen to help with NOAA heat-mapping campaign, searching for volunteers

Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of 14 communities nationwide chosen to participate in a program that tracks its hottest neighborhoods.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Wednesday that it has selected Montgomery County for its “Urban Heat Mapping Campaign” this summer.

At least 13 other communities across the country were also selected.

Here’s how it works.

Montgomery County selects a small group of volunteers — or street scientists — who will mount heat sensors to their vehicles and drive around on the hottest days, typically in early August.

“They’re on the ground, and they’re collecting the data,” said Laura Sivels with the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s really important to us that residents are able to participate in the mapping of their neighborhoods.”

The sensors will record temperatures, humidity, time and location, she said.

County scientists will use the data to pinpoint “Urban Heat Islands.” They are areas that can be up to 20 degrees hotter than nearby neighborhoods, NOAA said.

Previous data revealed that low-income, homeless and communities of color struggle with heat equity because their neighborhoods have fewer trees and more paved surfaces, such as parking lots, said Sivels.

“What this mapping will show us, as the heat cools and turns into night, the natural environment helps cool down the area,” she said. “But in these Urban Heat Islands, it’s still dangerously hot. ”

And that heat can trigger life-threatening illnesses, including heat exhaustion, heatstroke and hyperthermia for people in those areas.

“Extreme heat kills more Americans than any other weather event, but not everyone’s risk is the same,” Sivels said.

County lawmakers will also use the information to create heat action plans, such as more cooling centers in the neighborhoods that need them the most, Sivels said.

The mapping will cover some 200 square miles in the county, and target well-populated neighborhoods including Gaithersburg, Germantown, Rockville, Silver Spring and Wheaton.

Gigi Barnett

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

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