Assistant Professor of Urban Planning V. Kelly Turner was featured in an Arizona Republic article about her research on combating climate change and lowering urban temperatures. Turner partnered with climate scientist Ariane Middel to research the effect of surface-cooling solar reflective paint on how a person walking along the street feels the heat. “The broad lesson has to do with the fact that we need to be sensitive to context when we make decisions,” Turner said. “If the end goal is urban heat island mitigation, then we want to do something different than if our end goal is pedestrian comfort. They’re not the same thing, and they can’t be conflated.” Research like Middel’s and Turner’s is essential for cities developing heat mitigation techniques and investing in new infrastructure. It’s important to develop strategies using a combination of tools that address the specific needs of different city blocks and neighborhoods, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, they said.
An article in the Hechinger Report highlighted Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research findings on the relationship between heat and student test performance. Air pollution and heat are becoming increasing concerns as a result of climate change, and research indicates that these factors may inhibit student performance in classrooms. In a study conducted in New York City, Park found that hot testing days reduced students’ performance on Regents exams, which are required for graduation in New York, thus decreasing the probability of a student graduating from high school. He found that students are 10% more likely to fail an exam when the temperature is 90 degrees than when it’s 72 degrees. Park also co-authored a study that examined PSAT scores across the country and found that students “had lower scores if they experienced hotter school days in the years preceding the test, with extreme heat being particularly damaging.”
A CityLab story on the city of Los Angeles’ efforts to pursue “cool pavement” technologies to address rising urban temperatures featured the research of V. Kelly Turner, assistant professor of urban planning. While other cool pavement studies have measured surface and air temperature, Turner’s research is the first to focus on “mean radiant temperature,” which is most related to thermal comfort. Turner and Ariane Middel, assistant professor of arts media and engineering at Arizona State University, studied unshaded streets in Pacoima and Sun Valley that had been coated with an asphalt mixture called CoolSeal, which reflects, rather than absorbs, the energy from sunlight. They measured air temperature, wind speed, humidity and radiation from morning to sundown, and their preliminary findings will soon be published by the American Meteorological Society. The project is one part of a greater effort to collect data on the effectiveness of strategies to address so-called urban heat islands.
PBS NewsHour took an in-depth look at Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research linking extreme heat and students’ ability to learn. Every 1-degree-Fahrenheit increase in average outdoor temperature over a school year reduces student learning by 1 percent, a team of researchers led by Park found. The team’s analysis of weather data, test scores for 10 million students, and access to air conditioning in classrooms across the country point to a “Dixie divide”: In hotter counties in Florida, Texas and other Southern states, test scores were lower than those in the North, even after controlling for factors such as family income, a county’s economic status or local pollution. “The causal effect of any given 90-degree day was much larger for lower-income students and racial minorities,” added Park, associate director of economic research for the Luskin Center for Innovation. The study puts a spotlight on the nuanced ways that developed nations will be influenced by global warming.
A study by R. Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy, is cited in the online story that accompanies a recent NPR “Morning Edition” piece about the impact of hot weather on brain function. Compared with a 72-degree day, “taking an exam on a 90◦F day leads to a 10.9 percent lower likelihood of passing a particular subject (e.g. Algebra), which in turn affects probability of graduation,” according to Park. The same quote, plus additional information from the study, is included in a data-driven story by the Washington Post headlined, “Heat Makes You Dumb, in Four Charts.”