Tennessee Teens Collect Urban Heat Data for New MTSU Study
Tennessee Teens Collect Urban Heat Data for New MTSU Study

Tennessee Teens Collect Urban Heat Data for New MTSU Study

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Thanks to Adelle MonteblancoHeading research for the Nashville Urban Heat Youth Fellows Program is (from left) MTSU Professor Alisa Hass; students Sophia Roberts, Marissa Pickett and Hannah Newcomb; and Professor Adelle Monteblanco.

Whether driving to a summer job, playing football or shopping with friends, teenagers in Nashville were exposed to dangerous heat almost every time they stepped out of their homes last week.

This is not exactly a conjecture. A group of teens wore temperature sensors for a week as part of a new research effort from Middle Tennessee State University and the Cumberland River Compact.

The Nashville Urban Heat Youth Fellows program combines education and research to help protect young people in a world that’s getting hotter, said Adelle Monteblanco, an MTSU professor of sociology who co-led the project with climatologist Alisa Hass.

“They have an incredible burden ahead of them, shaped by the climate crisis. We aim to keep them safe with a few more pieces of information and a few more tools,” Monteblanco said.

About a dozen Nashville volunteers, ages 15 to 18, received a portable sensor and three stationary sensors, which measure both temperature and humidity, to place around their homes or backyards. They attended a few educational sessions on heat hazard, restriction and adaptation, then went on with their lives through an unusually hot week wearing the sensors.

Then the research team graphed their exposure to temperature and humidity.

“As they walk around, they can constantly encounter heat of 90 and above,” said Hannah Newcomb, an MTSU sociology graduate student who was involved in the study. “That’s really high and shocking.”

Normally, playing outside can improve children’s physical and mental health. But not when the heat index reaches 90 degrees or higher, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children, the elderly and pregnant people have more difficulty regulating their body temperature. Heat can cause dehydration, irritability, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke.

Heat waves, along with attendant wildfires, drought and poor air quality, can also lead to “climate anxiety” in young people.

On the other hand, many teens see themselves as invulnerable, so identifying their perceptions of heat exposure and its threats — and how they want to be warned about heat — was a core part of the study.

“That way we can communicate the dangers effectively and encourage them to take protective measures,” Monteblanco said. “We hope to encourage more adaptation efforts in their daily lives.”

As part of the program, the teens involved will also create a “heat communication product,” such as an infographic or post on Instagram or TikTok of the program.

The data and initial findings have not yet been peer-reviewed. The results of the study may be published later this year.

@heatfellows
Heat isn’t the same as it used to be. Learn more about urban heat islands today! Join our Nashville Urban Heat Fellows program to learn and lead in the field of urban heat! #climate change #urbanheat #urbanheatisland #environment #mtsu #nashville #asitwas #heatwave

♬ As It Was – Harry Styles

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