Extreme Heat Data Toolkit
According to the United States Global Change Research Program, heat waves (periods of abnormally hot and/or humid weather lasting a few days to weeks at a time) are occurring more frequently in major cities across the U.S. These events can have detrimental impacts on public health. Urban heat islands play a role in these extreme heat events, as the buildings and impervious surfaces (such as roads and sidewalks) of cities and developed areas tend to retain heat and have higher temperatures than rural areas.
Discover Extreme Heat Data
Temperature data are useful for assessing changes in weather and climate patterns that are critical for monitoring and responding to extreme heat events. By calculating the average temperature over a range of time, typically about 30 years, and comparing forecasted high temperatures with this climate data record, it's easy to determine if temperatures are above or below normal for that time period.
Air Surface Temperature
- Discover air surface temperature data using Earthdata Search
- Discover Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) air surface temperature data using Earthdata Search
- Interactively explore air surface temperature data imagery in Worldview
- Interactively explore MERRA-2 air surface temperature data imagery in Worldview
- Explore air surface temperature data at NASA's Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center (GES DISC)
- Explore daily surface weather data and annual climate summaries for North America, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico using Daymet at NASA's Oak Ridge National Laboratory Distributed Active Archive Center (ORNL DAAC)
Land Surface Temperature
- Discover land surface temperature data using Earthdata Search
- Interactively explore land surface temperature data imagery in Worldview
- Explore land surface temperature data at NASA's Land Processes DAAC (LP DAAC)
- Explore global summer land surface temperature data at NASA's Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)
- GES DISC air surface temperature tutorials and data recipes
- ORNL DAAC Daymet learning resources
- Getting Started with MODIS Land Surface Temperature Data (Part 1)
- Getting Started with MODIS Land Surface Temperature Data (Part 2)
- Getting Started with MODIS Land Surface Temperature Data (Part 3)
Heat-related Socioeconomic Data
Socioeconomic data help assess the exposure and vulnerability of a community to a disaster. Exposure is the presence of people, ecosystems, and infrastructure in places that could be adversely affected; vulnerability is the likelihood of being adversely affected. NASA's home for EOSDIS socioeconomic data is SEDAC, which is hosted by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University.
- Discover population data using Earthdata Search
- Interactively explore population data imagery in Worldview
- Estimate population in a user-defined area using SEDAC's Population Estimation Service
- Explore population data at SEDAC
Gridded Population and Settlement Data: An Introduction to the POPGRID Data Collaborative
- Mapping Global Urbanization from Landsat Data and High-Resolution Reference Data
Long-term data records available through NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) are an invaluable resource in climate research. NASA also provides data on the critical factors of temperature and humidity, as well as landcover and socioeconomic data that can help in understanding the exposure and vulnerabilities of communities to extreme heat events. This toolkit is designed to support research into extreme heat events by providing easy access to data and other resources.
Visualize and Interactively Explore Data
Humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor in the air. When humidity is high, water does not evaporate as easily and it becomes difficult for the body to cool off through sweating. Humidity is an important factor in determining the heat index, which is measure of how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature (relative humidity is a measure of the actual amount of water vapor in the air compared to the total amount of water vapor that can exist in the air at its current temperature). The heat index is used to determine public health warnings for areas experiencing heat waves.
- Discover relative humidity data using Earthdata Search
- Discover MERRA-2 humidity data using Earthdata Search
- Interactively explore relative humidity data imagery in Worldview
- Explore humidity data at GES DISC
Land Cover and Vegetation Cover
Land cover plays a key role in controlling the amount of excess heat absorbed or radiated by urban and built-up environments. Urban heat islands occur when cities replace natural land cover with dense concentrations of pavement, buildings, and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. Trees, green roofs, and vegetation all help reduce urban heat island effects by shading building surfaces, deflecting solar radiation, and releasing moisture into the atmosphere.
Vegetation indices are calculated from the difference between visible and near-infrared light reflected by vegetation. Healthy vegetation absorbs most of the visible light that hits it and reflects a large portion of light in near-infrared wavelengths. Unhealthy, stressed, or sparse vegetation (such as in areas experiencing drought or extreme heat) absorbs more near-infrared light and reflects more light in the visible spectrum. These differences in reflectance can be detected by satellite-borne sensors and can be converted into imagery showing areas of healthy vs. stressed vegetation.
Along with vegetation indices, data from NASA's ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) mission provide detailed measurements of vegetation temperature, which is an indication of plant stress. Plants with sufficient water are able to maintain their temperature; plants that are stressed by insufficient water caused by drought, extreme heat, and other factors show a temperature rise.
- Discover land cover and land use data using Earthdata Search
- Interactively explore land cover data imagery in Worldview
- Explore land cover data at LP DAAC
- Discover vegetation index data using Earthdata Search
- Discover ECOSTRESS data using Earthdata Search
- Interactively explore vegetation index imagery in Worldview
- Explore vegetation index data at LP DAAC
- Explore ECOSTRESS data at LP DAAC
- Explore vegetation datasets at ORNL DAAC
Urban Heat Islands (UHI)/Impervious Surfaces
- Discover UHI data using Earthdata Search
- Interactively explore UHI data imagery in Worldview
- Explore UHI data at SEDAC
- Explore impervious surface data at SEDAC
- Exploring Earth's Land Surface with Suomi NPP NASA VIIRS Land Data
- ECOSTRESS: NASA's Next-Generation Mission to Measure Evapotranspiration from the ISS
- Creating and Using Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) from Satellite Imagery using QGIS
Getting Started with MODIS Version 6 Vegetation Indices Data (Part 1)
- Getting Started with MODIS Version 6 Vegetation Indices Data (Part 2)
- Getting Started with MODIS Version 6 Vegetation Indices Data (Part 3)
- Links to LP DAAC resources related to vegetation indices
- Links to LP DAAC ECOSTRESS resources
- HBASE [Human Built-up and Settlement Extent] and GMIS [Global Man-made Impervious Surface]: Data Products from NASA SEDAC
About the Data
NASA provides data from a variety of sources including satellites, airborne campaigns, field campaigns, in situ instruments, and model outputs. NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) offers a wide variety of freely and openly available data that can be used to evaluate disaster-related events.
Learn How to Find Data at EOSDIS DAACs (Webinars)
- NASA ORNL DAAC MODIS and VIIRS Data Tools and Services at your Fingertips
Navigating LP DAAC to Find Answers to your Deepest Land Data Questions
- Navigating the New LP DAAC Website: Searching for Data
- Remote Sensing Derived Environmental Indicators for Decision Making
Data User Profiles
The following Data User Profiles show how NASA EOSDIS data are being used in research related to urban heat islands, population adaptations to changing climate, and how a warming climate impacts ecosystem structure and function:
Dr. Deborah Balk uses a spatial framework to study the demographic impacts of climate-related hazards and adaptations to climate change.
Dr. Karen Seto uses NASA Earth science data to study the environmental effects of urbanization.
Dr. Lucy Hutyra uses Earth observing data to improve our understanding of the carbon cycle, particularly how changes in vegetation and land use impact flows of carbon between the biosphere and the atmosphere.
Dr. Sparkle Malone uses Earth observing data to study how a changing climate and disturbances influence ecosystem structure and function.
Lela Prashad uses NASA Earth science data for exploring how people live in and experience urban environments.
Read about how researchers are using NASA satellite, field campaign, and model data to study extreme heat and other natural disasters.
Published February 22, 2021
Page Last Updated: Sep 8, 2021 at 10:41 PM EDT