Rural Heat Islands

Rural heat islands: Mapping and mitigating farmworker exposure to
heat stress

Urban heat islands have received much attention in climate change adaptation, but mapping and adapting to rural heat islands (RHIs) is also critical for California’s climate action and environmental justice. Farmworking communities are vulnerable to heat stress, especially in the hot desert of the Imperial Valley.

An interdisciplinary group of scholars (SDSU, UCSB, SDSU-IV campus) and community groups propose to map rural heat islands and to co-produce knowledge on heat stress exposure and dissemination strategies with the farmworker community of Imperial Valley, California, including six activities:

1) Map rural heat islands using climate models and remote sensing;
2) Identify relationships between heat stress, cropping patterns and Salton Sea extent;
3) Assess farmworker experiences of heat stress using in-situ monitors and participant interviews;
4) Compare heat island maps with the in situ monitored stress in both agricultural fields and farmworker homes, both day and night;
5) Develop tools to distribute climate analysis results that can be accessed by households, managers, government agencies, schools, and the Heat Stress Awareness Program (HSAP);
6) Obtain community feedback on distribution tools, and determine how the farmworker and agricultural community accesses information about heat stress in order to develop effective communication strategies.

We will hold focus groups with community groups, government agencies and non-profits to codesign the study and results dissemination strategies. The outcomes will provide actionable, coproduced knowledge on how the combination of climate change, water scarcity, and cropping changes are likely to impact farmworker heat stress exposure, and will inform future work that
provides outreach to this vulnerable community.

See more details about the project and our team members here.