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The Importance of Data in Combatting Extreme Heat and Climate Change

Data is critical to providing information on how climate change affects Americans nationwide. This includes heat. Recently, the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau released estimates for heat that identifies areas across the country that are socially vulnerable to extreme heat. This data comes at a critical time as many parts of our nation face this challenge.

Almost 1 in 4 people in the United States are socially vulnerable and have low resilience to extreme heat exposure, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) for Heat, an experimental data product released in April, measures the capacity of individuals and households in a community to withstand the stress of exposure to extreme heat based on their social characteristics. When accounting for additional housing and transportation characteristics, more people in the United States are socially vulnerable or less resilient to rising heat temperatures.

The tool produces national, state, county and census tract (neighborhood equivalent) estimates using individual and household data from the 2019 American Community Survey restricted microdata and the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program. The experimental climate-focused data product was developed with Arizona State University’s Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER). The product was released at a joint Census Bureau-KER climate resilience symposium in Washington, D.C.

In addition to this Census tool, the Biden-Harris Administration launched Heat.gov, an interagency website that provides critical data to help communities facing extreme heat. The website provides the public and decision-makers with clear, timely, and science-based information to understand and reduce the health risks of extreme heat. Heat.gov is a one-stop hub on heat and health for the nation.

Extreme heat has been the greatest weather-related cause of death in the U.S. for the past 30 years — more than hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding or extreme cold. In addition, the heat crisis does not affect people equally. Extreme heat mortality disproportionately affects Native American and Black communities, as well as those living in the urban core or very rural neighborhoods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The launch of Heat.gov is just the latest measure to address extreme heat. With funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Biden-Harris Administration has invested in programs to build resilient infrastructure that helps communities withstand extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and other heat-related hazards. Additionally, the Administration has made record investments to help families with their household energy costs, including summer cooling. The site features heat information from across federal agencies, including heat forecasts from Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Weather Service.

During last year’s launch of Heat.gov, Commerce Secretary Raimondo said, “Heat.gov leverages innovation and data to help deliver timely and accurate information to the public. As extreme heat conditions impact millions of Americans, this site will help ensure that all our communities, including our most vulnerable, have access to the data, tools, and resources they need to mitigate heat impacts.” 

Please visit the Heat.gov website for more information including the number of people in the U.S. that are currently under active National Weather Service extreme heat advisories, watches, and warnings.

On July 11, the Biden-Harris Administration announced additional measures to protect communities from extreme heat.