Museum of Science, Mystic River Watershed Association Partner to Measure Urban Heat Island Effect in the Region

April 16, 2021

BOSTON, MA – The Museum of Science, Boston, in partnership with regional partners, the Mystic River Watershed Association, the Town of Arlington, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Mystic River Collaborative have kicked off a major project to measure extreme heat within the Mystic River Watershed area through community science. The project is recruiting volunteers from the community to collect temperatures this summer to aid research efforts.

The project, known as Wicked Hot Mystic, and funded through a $186,000 grant from the state Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program, is recruiting volunteers to help identify local hotspots in 21 communities along the Mystic River Watershed and develop a watershed-wide map of day- and night-time “real feel” temperatures and humidity. Wicked Hot Mystic maps, paired with observations from community members, will allow the municipalities to prioritize investments into the hottest urban heat islands, and explore how nature-based solutions can be used to reduce extreme summertime heat.

This work builds upon the 2019 Wicked Hot Boston study, led by the Museum of Science in partnership with Northeastern University, CAPA Strategies, and the communities of Boston, Cambridge and Brookline, which found temperature differences of up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit during heat wave events. Subsequent analyses of the data by Museum researchers and others have confirmed the highest temperatures are often found in city neighborhoods that are home to higher concentrations of vulnerable populations where extreme heat is a public health concern.

“What is really exciting about the Wicked Hot Mystic partnership is that it empowers local residents to make a real difference in their own neighborhoods,” said Tim Ritchie, president at the Museum of Science. “Extreme heat adversely impacts our communities in so many ways, and the volunteers participating in this project will collect data that directly contributes to future resiliency planning in their towns. The Museum is proud to partner with our fellow community leaders at the Mystic River Watershed Association, the Town of Arlington, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, GreenRoots, Inc., and the Resilient Mystic Collaborative, to advance this critical climate action work.”

The project will mobilize hundreds of community volunteer scientists from 21 Mystic River Watershed municipalities in the summer of 2021, collecting temperature, humidity, and air quality data during extreme heat events by traversing routes in their neighborhoods using high-tech sensors mounted onto motor vehicles and bicycles.

"We are thrilled to be partnering with the Museum of Science to measure how residents and workers experience extreme heat, humidity, and air quality across the Greater Boston Area with the help of volunteer scientists," said Melanie Gárate, climate resilience project manager for the Mystic River Watershed Association. "This is essential information we need to prioritize where and how to invest in improvements to keep people cooler and safer during heatwaves."

The Wicked Hot Mystic project team have begun recruiting hundreds of community volunteer scientists, and data collection will begin in this summer. To express your interest in becoming a volunteer, follow this link.

Those interested in learning more can join the Instagram Live event on Tuesday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. on the Museum of Science’s Instagram, @museumofscience. For more information about Wicked Hot Mystic visit, mos.org/wickedhot.

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