The Department of Commerce and NOAA announce $4.55 million in funding for two new NIHHIS Centers of Excellence 

BOSTONThe Department of Commerce and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today announced $4.55 million in funding across two projects to support community heat resilience. Part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, under the Inflation Reduction Act, these funds support the development of two new National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS) Centers of Excellence committed to the Justice40 Initiative: The Center for HeatReady Communities and The Center for Collaborative Heat Monitoring. The Museum of Science, Boston is a partnering organization of the latter, led by the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC, and one of its four geographically disperse physical hub sites, each serving a different region of the US.

Spearheaded by David Sittenfeld, director of the Center for the Environment, the Museum of Science has partnered with local communities to map urban heat islands in metro Boston and throughout the Mystic River Watershed since 2019. The Museum’s participatory science campaigns “Wicked Hot Boston” and “Wicked Hot Mystic” revealed significant temperature differences between historically redlined and non-redlined districts, with many of the hottest areas corresponding to neighborhoods with large populations of low-income residents and people of color. Residents of these hot spots are at greatest risk of extreme heat-related hazards.

With heat waves becoming more frequent and intense due to a warming climate, the Center for the Environment works to bring local communities together to turn urban heat island data into tools for change, so that resilience planning and mitigation efforts are community-led. As a member of the Center for Collaborative Heat Monitoring, the Museum will participate in a three-year NIHHIS project across 30 cities, continuing community science observations and data collection on extreme heat and helping communities observe, monitor, and evaluate factors influencing heat risk at a local scale.

Preparing for extreme heat needs to be a fundamental part of climate change conversations,” said Sittenfeld. “We’ve just experienced the 11th consecutive month of record-breaking heat in April of this year. At greatest risk of heat-related hazards are residents of urban heat islands, metropolitan areas corresponding with histories of red-lining and disinvestment. Mitigating and remedying the UHI effect is an issue of environmental justice, and one we’ve been partnering with local community groups to address since 2019. We’re deeply grateful to NOAA for their investment in this work, here in Boston, across the US, and around the world.”

The Center for Collaborative Heat Monitoring will receive $2.3 million in funding over three years for community climate science field campaign support, while the Center for HeatReady Communities will receive $2.25 million to support communities in determining the best data-driven, equity-oriented strategies for local heat mitigation and management. Both centers are aligned with the Justice40 Initiative, broadening the impact and benefits of participatory science in communities that have been marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution. 

The Centers of Excellence will build on years of NIHHIS efforts to map urban heat islands in over 80 US and international communities. This information supports heat decision-making by helping cities understand where heat is distributed and who is most at risk. Past heat mapping campaigns have informed city sustainability plans, public health practices, and urban forestry plans.