Jeremy Hoffman, climate and earth scientist at the Science Museum of Virginia in Richmond, shared local research on heat wave vulnerability with U.S. Reps. Don McEachin, D-4th, and Kathy Castor, D-Fla., during their visit to the museum on Tuesday. Castor chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, and McEachin is one of two representatives from Virginia on the committee.

Hoffman presented the museum’s climate education efforts over the past three years, which included a lecture series, school programming, disaster-planning exercises and interactive models that allow students to design cooler streetscapes.

After coordinating a volunteer-driven Richmond heat island study in 2017, which showed a 16-degree difference between the hottest and coolest parts of the city on a summer afternoon, Hoffman aided similar projects for Washington and Baltimore in 2018 with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

(For the 2017 study, I joined 12 teams of scientists and volunteers from the Science Museum, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond, Groundwork RVA and Portland State University to gather readings around the city.)

Climate change will worsen heat waves, but cities face even higher temperatures in areas with lots of concrete and asphalt instead of a tree canopy. Hoffman’s research also showed that the hottest areas of Richmond contain many of the residents who are most vulnerable to heat illness. Heat island maps can be used by local leaders when developing climate action plans, housing policy and tree-planting initiatives.

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John Boyer is the first staff meteorologist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He joined the RTD newsroom in November 2016. Boyer earned his degree in meteorology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

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