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The Greater Boston Area is known for its cold winters, snowy city streets, and Nor’easters. We know to budget for salt on our roads, keep warm indoors, and do the “penguin shuffle” to get to the car. Summers, however, are becoming increasingly important to plan for since they are getting longer, hotter, and more humid. Surprisingly, extreme heat, sometimes known as the “silent storm of extreme weather” causes more deaths in the US than all other weather hazards combined. As daily temperatures continue to increase in Massachusetts, the Museum of Science, Boston, in partnership with the Resilient Mystic River Collaborative (RMC), Mystic River Watershed Association, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, are focused on building a community of resilience to prepare for a hotter Greater Boston Area within the Mystic River Watershed.
The goals of this project were to collect high resolution temperature and air quality data via volunteer scientists, create heat and air quality maps to identify the neighborhoods with highest extreme heat burden, increase community engagement around the rising concerns of extreme heat, and communicate the data to civic partners, community groups, and the general public.
On August 12 and 13, 2021, over 80 volunteers joined MOS and MyRWA in measuring ground-level air temperature, humidity, and air particulate matter using special sensors mounted on cars and bikes. They traveled along 19 predetermined transects at 6 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., and 6 a.m. the next morning.
Volunteers mounted two types of sensors on their car windows or bicycles: 1) a CAPA temperature sensor, which records the ambient air temperature once per second, and 2) an AirBeam air quality sensor, which measures particulate matter (PM2.5). This method of sampling was developed with partners from CAPA Strategies, HabitatMap, Portland State University, and the Science Museum of Virginia.
Throughout the summer of 2021, we used citizen science platform called ISeeChange, where participants documented and learned more about the changing environment around them. We had an extreme heat page for the Mystic River watershed, where anyone within the area could post their observations, while also being able to interact with other citizen scientists. Posts included highlighting areas that were hotter in the city, areas that had trees or water features to cool down, or how community members were dealing with the heat.
ISeeChange is a global community that posts about what participants notice changing in the environment using the platform and mobile tools. Each post is synced with weather and climate data and broadcast to the community to investigate bigger picture climate trends. Over time, community members can track how climate is changing, season to season, year to year, and understand the impacts on daily life.
Sign up for ISeeChange today at https://www.iseechange.org/
Wicked Hot Mystic Results Webinar
Museum of Science Instagram Live
BARI Conference 2021: Building Back Smarter
From Snow Days to Heat Waves: A Discussion on Health, Heat, and Climate Change
Wicked Hot Mystic: ISeeChange Webinar
Wicked Hot Mystic Information Session
Wicked Hot Mystic: Temperature Data Collection Training
If you would like to receive email updates about this project, please sign up here. You will only be emailed about Wicked Hot Mystic.
Supported by the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program
In partnership with Mystic River Watershed Association, Resilient Mystic Collaborative, and the Town of Arlington, Researchers from the Helmuth Lab at Northeastern University, and Lowell Institute.