UofSC partners with NOAA to map heat in Columbia, data collection aims to help people navigate hot summer days

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Published: Aug. 6, 2022 at 5:47 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Just how hot is “Famously Hot Columbia?” Well, throughout the day, 40 volunteers measured temperatures in different neighborhoods to find the answer.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of South Carolina, and the Richland County Conservation Project partnered with a heat mapping exercise to better understand the heat impact in the Midlands.

Mark Lowery and his wife, Angie were two of the volunteers who started at 5:45 a.m. to record temperature data/

“We set the instrument up as we were instructed and just let it do its thing and I’ll be interested to see the data once it’s processed,” Lowery said.

The couple’s first stop on their drive was the Olympia Mills area as they used the measuring device which is able to record temperatures quickly, and from a distance.

The Lowerys then went through the Wales Garden neighborhood, followed by Shandon, Rosewood, and even passed Williams Brice Stadium before ending back in Olympia.

“Anyone who has lived in Columbia any length of time is well aware of how different the temperatures can be in downtown versus some of the outlining areas, like Chapin, Blythewood, Eastover, you know when you get outside of Columbia on a hot summer day it’s amazing how much cooler it can be,” Lowery said.

University of South Carolina’s Kirstin Dow is one of the leaders of this project and hopes it can help the Midlands when tackling high temperatures.

“This data provides a scientific basis for making decisions about where we can reduce the heat and make the city more livable, make businesses more attractive, make different neighborhoods more walkable, and more playable,” Dow said.

The project spanned 190 square miles through Columbia, and the data collected should be finalized in October.

“It helps us understand where people are being exposed, and we can work to reduce high-temperature exposure to people with pre-existing conditions,” Dow said.

The end goal is to find out which neighborhoods face the greatest heat risks, so city officials can then better prepare for heat-related emergencies, and help people in the community who struggle with paying high energy costs.

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