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Developing a model for effects of climate change on human health and health-environment interactions: Heat stress in Austin, Texas presentation
Boumans, R., D. Phillips, T. Fontaine, C. Burdick, AND W. Victery. Developing a model for effects of climate change on human health and health-environment interactions: Heat stress in Austin, Texas presentation. Presented at Pressentation at Region 9 office, July 19, 2012.
EPA scientists have been developing a simulation model to examine effects of climate change on environment-health interactions that will be presented in a seminar to Region 9 and other interested parties including staff from state departments of health, Centers of Disease Control, and academic researchers. The prototype model focuses on Austin, Texas with heat stress as a health endpoint, but is designed to be transportable to other sites and expandable to other health endpoints. The model simulates the urban heat island effect by examining the effect of shading and evapotranspiration by vegetation on surface temperatures. The spatial patterns of high temperature exposure are overlaid on indices of population vulnerability and temperature-mortality relationships to determine the highest areas of risk. The model also is designed to explore the potential for actions such as urban tree planting programs to mitigate heat stress effects in both current and future climates.
Background/Question/Methods In December, 2010, a consortium of EPA, Centers for Disease Control, and state and local health officials convened in Austin, Texas for a “participatory modeling workshop” on climate change effects on human health and health-environment interactions. This was the kickoff to a project focused on developing a tool for decision-makers (EPA clients) to evaluate and explore potential public health impacts while planning adaptation and mitigation responses to global climate change. A conceptual scoping model was laid out using Simile to represent environmental and social components and consensus relations among variables and with climate change. Subsequent development stages are directed toward a research model with detailed process descriptions and data acquisition for calibration, and a management model for exploration of mitigation scenarios and management options. Model development was geographically focused on Travis County, TX (Austin and surrounds) and with a health endpoint of heat stress mortality, but with the intent to build a model that was readily transportable to other sites and expandable to other health endpoints. Results/Conclusions Following published work in Phoenix, Arizona, we modeled effects of vegetative cooling on study area temperatures. These calculations were based on National Land Cover Database (NLCD) land-cover classes, typical normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) temporal profiles per land-cover class, and changes in sensible and latent heat fluxes keyed to NDVI and temperature and humidity variables. Water requirements for vegetative cooling were also calculated. This resulted in a spatial pattern of temperatures reflecting an urban heat-island effect. These variations in temperature were used to modify area weather station data to depict spatial variation in high temperature exposure based on daily temperatures, as well as frequency, duration, intensity, and timing of multi-day heat