Collaborative Heat Watch Research Project

The Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges developed the Heat Watch project through VFIC STEM Education Workshops with faculty and staff from VFIC schools.  At the conclusion of these workshops, a sub-committee research group worked together to form a collaborative research project focusing on urban heat mapping.

This collaborative project between 12 VFIC member colleges and universities and Virginia State University brought together students, faculty members, and citizen scientists from 10 diverse communities to gather data on urban heat. Over 200 volunteers took part in the Heat Watch campaign.  Volunteers used temperature sensors to traverse their study areas on a hot summer day (July 15) by walking or driving at three standardized times of day: morning, afternoon, and evening. These data resulted in high-resolution heat surface maps, revealing temperature variations in our region.

Areas Mapped:

  • Abingdon
  • Arlington
  • Farmville
  • Harrisonburg
  • Lynchburg
  • Petersburg
  • Richmond
  • Salem
  • Virginia Beach
  • Winchester

Heat Watch volunteers collected highly detailed near-surface air temperature data for the purpose of correlating land uses like asphalt parking lots, community green spaces, and topography to temperatures. The project’s deliverables include maps of air temperature and heat index, along with datasets of participant temperature observations.

Data generated from this project has already been used at the colleges and universities that participated in the Heat Watch Campaign.  Numerous students and faculty members have used the data in research projects and presentations. The data has also been used to develop new curricula, as well as implemented in existing labs and lecture classes. In addition, the results are being shared with local governments and community organizations to help these entities better tackle heat related issues. To date, over 450 students have been impacted by the Heat Watch data.

The Heat Watch group is now in the preliminary stages of planning a tree planting campaign with the Virginia Department of Forestry using data from the 2021 Heat Watch project.

Thank You to Our Community Partners:

  • CAPA Strategies
  • Capital One
  • Science Museum of Virginia
  • Virginia Department of Forestry