June 26, 2024

Media Advisory: Observe weather-chasing trucks and interview extreme heat experts

  • What: Media are invited to observe and shoot footage of mobile laboratory trucks and weather balloons deployed for a Department of Energy-funded project to better understand extreme heat and related hazards in the Southwest. Experts from Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Arizona, the city of Tucson, and the National Weather Service will be available for interviews.
  • When: Tuesday, July 2, 6-9 a.m.
  • Where: UArizona Parking Lot 3039, behind CAPLA West and the Center for Creative Photography (view on map)
  • RSVP: Please RSVP with name, media outlet and email address to Kyle Mittan at mittank@arizona.edu by 5 p.m. on Friday, June 28.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Members of the media are invited to watch as researchers from Brookhaven National Laboratory's Center for Multiscale Applied Sensing drive routes across Tucson in specialized weather-chasing trucks and launch weather balloons to collect data as part of a national effort help urban communities better respond to climate extremes.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory will bring the trucks, balloons and other weather-measuring instruments to Tucson as part of the Southwest Urban Corridor Integrated Field Laboratory. The $25 million project, announced in late 2022, includes researchers from all three state universities.

The Brookhaven National Laboratory researchers have made similar stops at cities across the U.S. to collect data on temperature, humidity, wind speed, air pollution and storms.

UArizona researchers will help translate the science into reports and actionable goals that communities across the U.S. can use to mitigate the effects of extreme heat. Ladd Keith, associate professor in the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture, is a co-principal investigator for the Southwest Urban Corridor Integrated Field Laboratory and leads UArizona's part of the research.

Other partners in the project are Oakridge National Laboratory, IBM, the National Weather Service and the city of Tucson.

"This collaborative climate data collection effort across the state will provide our stakeholders with valuable information to better tailor heat response efforts based on community needs," said Keith, who will be available for interviews during the July 2 event. 

Katia Lamer, director of the Center for Multiscale Applied Sensing, leads the team driving the mobile lab trucks, which has traveled 2,500 miles from its home base at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

"There are nearly no public climate instruments in most U.S. cities. As a result, our intel about climate conditions at the neighborhood scale is very sparce, which hinders our ability to make accurate predictions about the future," Lamer said. "This lack of data also makes it difficult for us to quantify inequities in heat and air quality experienced by city dwellers and to quantify the actual benefits of the mitigation and resilience solutions that are currently being implemented in various U.S. cities."

Extreme heat research – and ways to translate it into actionable measures governments can take – has become increasingly important in the face of climate change, Keith said. Last year, heat-related deaths in Arizona reached 987, a record high. In Phoenix, heat-related deaths in 2023 were up 52% over 2022.

Extreme heat events are also more intense and longer lasting, Keith added. A recent heat wave in Mexico likely killed more than 100 people and was made 35 times more likely to happen due to climate change, according to a report co-authored by Keith and published by the World Weather Attribution, a global collective of climate scientists.

Members of the media who attend the July 2 event will have the opportunity to follow and observe the mobile lab trucks driving through town and collecting data. Media who wish to take 20-minute ride-alongs will have the opportunity as research staff are available.

In addition to Keith and Lamer, the following researchers and officials will be available for interviews:

  • Heidi Brown, professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
  • Mark Kear, assistant professor in the School of Geography, Development and Environment
  • Malini Roy, postdoctoral research associate in the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning
  • Tom Dang, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service Tucson Office
  • Officials from the Tucson mayor's office and Pima County Health Department

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Media contact:
Kyle Mittan
University Communications

The University of Arizona, a land-grant institution with two independently accredited medical schools, ranks among the nation's top universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the university is widely recognized as student-centric and has been designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. As a leading Research 1 institution, the University of Arizona ranks in the top 20 among all public universities with $955 million in annual research expenditures according to the National Science Foundation. The university advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 71 leading public and private research universities in the U.S. and Canada. It benefits the state of Arizona with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.