Personal Heat Exposure

Research & Evaluation

This website serves as a repository of projects underway by urban planning faculty at the University of Arizona.

We focus on personal heat exposure measurement and evaluation in the context of urban projects, policies, transportation for climate change adaptation and resilience.

Want to know more? Contact Nicole at

Why Personal Heat Exposure?

In our changing climate, heat events and chronic high heat are increasingly likely. The body of evidence quickly documenting heat at the regional level is growing quickly. For example, Urban Heat Island (UHI) research demonstrates significant rural to urban differences. It also shows big spatial differences within a city.

But how does increasing heat exposure impact the daily lives of the person walking down the street, waiting for the bus stop, or playing in the park?

At the University of Arizona, we are leveraging the hot, semi-arid living laboratory of Tucson to understand how extreme and chronic heat influences individuals working and playing throughout the city. We use affordable, off-the-shelf instrumentation to understand the thermal comfort of a human at what is often described as the "pedestrian scale". By evaluating how a person experiences heat in different situations, we help local governments and urban planners understand tradeoffs and target more effective interventions.

Cool Corridor Evaluation & Tool Box

With funding from the National Institute of Transportation & Community (NITC), a US DOT University Transportation Center, we are partnering with the City of Tucson to evaluate their first 1.5-mile cool pavement pilot project. In addition to demonstrating cooler pavements and cooler ambient air temperatures, we are also investigating the personal heat exposure for pedestrians and cyclists along the route.


Meet Ashley Avila, Minority Fellow, at 2022 TRB

Ashley Avila has been working with the team to consider the effects of vehicular waste heat on pedestrian thermal comfort.

Her research will be presented on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2022 10:30AM - 12:00PM at the TRB Annual Meeting in the Convention Center, Hall A. View the finished poster here: TRB poster

Read more about Ashley in the following article: CAPLA Student Profile

Past Projects

Heat on Playgrounds and School Gardens

This 2019 pilot, in cooperation with UArizona Extension, was our first effort to understand personal heat exposure. We spent the summer out at school rain gardens and playgrounds to get a handle on instrumentation and differences in surfaces.

Heat Exposure in COVID-19 Vaccination PODS

Drive-thru COVID vaccination pods sounded like a great idea in January 2021 in Arizona. By March, we were all a little concerned about the well-being of those volunteering and working at the PODS.

Read about our rapid evaluation of personal heat exposure for workers, volunteers, and clients in the Journal of Climate Change & Health

Heat Research at UArizona

UArizona's Extreme Heat Network is managed by Dr. Keith. Go check it out and subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

Visioning a Cooler Tucson is an interdisciplinary project seeking to improve public involvement in policy decisions, especially those regarding extreme heat, through the use of an interactive visual learning tool.

Evaluating the Use of Urban Heat Island and Heat Increase Modeling in Land Use and Planning Decision-Making is a study led by Dr. Keith to document and evaluate the usage of urban heat maps and models in communities in Arizona and New Mexico.

Border Heat-Health Partnership is a partnership between various universities, scientists, and government researchers with the goal of reducing heat-related illness and death along the U.S-Mexico border.

Tucson Verde Para Todos is a collaborative project that aims to facilitate the design and adoption of GI demonstration projects in traditionally underserved, low-income communities in southern Tucson.

Pinal County Public Health Services District Implementation and Monitoring Strategy (IMS) for Heat-Related Illness (HRI) is a project that used Biosense ESSENCE syndromic surveillance software to determine the burden HRI among Pinal residents and develop effective interventions to reduce the number of HRI cases.

Meet the Team

Nicole Iroz-Elardo, PhD

Nicole studies the links between the built environment and public health. She is particularly interested in making sure that extreme heat interventions serve those who are trying to walk, bike, and recreate in their communities.

Read Nicole's official UArizona bio here

Contact Nicole at

Ladd Keith, PhD

Ladd is our resident heat adaptation and resilience expert. His research on extreme heat is usually at the regional scale, documenting urban heat islands and translating the evidence into local policies.

Read Ladd's Science Op-Ed Here

Read Ladd's official UArizona bio here

Contact Ladd at

Kristi Currans, PhD

Kristi comes from a civil engineering background. But she is much more than your typical engineer. Deeply invested in understanding multi-modal travel behavior, Kristi researches how policies at the site level can shift how people get around the city.

Read Kristi's official UArizona bio here

Contact Kristi at

Ethan Wissler

Graduate Student Researcher

Lauren Heath

Undergraduate Student Researcher

Ashley Avila

Undergraduate Student Researcher