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NIHHIS-CAPA Urban Heat Island Mapping Campaign Application


UHI Campaigns Past and Present


NOAA's Climate Program Office and the National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS), in partnership with Climate Adaptation Planning and Analytics (CAPA) Strategies, are pleased to announce the communities that will be participating in the 2021 cohort of NIHHIS-CAPA Urban Heat Island mapping campaigns.

NOAA/NIHHIS supported campaigns:

  1. Albuquerque, NM - City of Albuquerque
  2. Atlanta, GA - Spelman College 
  3. The Bronx & Manhattan, NY - Columbia University 
  4. Brooklyn, NY - NYC Department of Education
  5. Charleston, SC - Climate Adaptation Partners
  6. Kansas City, MO - University of Missouri
  7. Raleigh & Durham, NC - Museum of Life and Science
  8. San Diego, CA - San Diego Foundation
  9. San Francisco, CA - San Francisco Department of Public Health

NIHHIS-affiliated/independently-funded campaigns:

  1. Northeastern New Jersey (Jersey City, Elizabeth, Newark) - Sustainable Jersey City
  2. Richmond and Clarksville, IN - Indiana University 
  3. Mystic River Watershed (Parts of Arlington, Boston, Burlington, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Maiden, Medford, Melrose, Reading, Revere, Somerville, Watertown, Winchester, and Winthrop), MA - Mystic River Watershed & Museum of Science, Boston
  4. Virginia Independent Colleges (Colleges in Abingdon, Arlington, Charlottesville, Farmville, Harrisonburg, Virginia Beach, Lynchburg, Petersburg, Richmond, Roanoke, Winchester), VA - Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges

Applications to receive NOAA support were accepted until 5 pm ET Friday, January 8, 2021. Subscribe to the Heat Beat Newsletter to learn of any future support opportunities.

Over the past four years, NOAA (Office of Education, Climate Program Office, National Integrated Heat Health Information System (NIHHIS)) has funded CAPA Heat Watch to support 21 communities across the United States in mapping their urban heat islands (UHI). CAPA Strategies has developed a process to help cities plan and execute a volunteer-based community science field campaign that builds upon local partnerships, engages residents in a scientific study to map and understand how heat is distributed in their communities, and produces high-quality outputs that have been used in city sustainability plans, public health practices, urban forestry, research projects, and other engagement activities.

See community profiles, learn more about the participants, and download data and reports >>

See a story map with interactive visualization and a data service >>

These community science field campaigns are an excellent opportunity to raise awareness about the many impacts of extreme heat and the factors that may affect the uneven distribution of heat throughout a community. It is also an opportunity to teach aspiring young scientists about how scientific field campaigns are conducted, consists of volunteers learning about urban heat in a training session, attaching sensors to their vehicles, and driving pre-mapped transects through their cities to collect temperature and humidity data that is linked to GPS coordinates.

The final product of the community science field campaigns is a set of high resolution air temperature and humidity data, and a report by CAPA Strategies that provides a detailed analysis of distribution of heat in the morning, afternoon and evening. Interactive, high resolution web maps of the modeled air temperature and heat index are also provided.. The maps are produced using a machine learning process that combines satellite imagery and air temperature and humidity readings collected by volunteers during the campaign. For more information consult a recent publication on the mapping process [].

Communities interested in applying to run a campaign with NOAA support in 2021 are encouraged to reach out to many potential partners/organizations as soon as possible to build a network for organizing volunteers and for identifying uses for the resulting datasets and products from the campaigns. Please review the information below, and let us know if you have any questions by reaching out to Questions specific to the application form can be directed to

Heat Mapping Funding from NOAA

NOAA and CAPA Strategies work together as part of a Public-Private Partnership to help cities understand how heat is distributed throughout communities, and to support subsequent assessment of the causes and decision making for the solutions to extreme heat. CAPA Strategies was chosen as the subcontractor by Harmonic International, which was competitively awarded a purchase agreement by NOAA. As such, we are using an application process to prioritize campaign communities, not a competition; we are accepting applications for interested organizations, not proposals. Community partners do not receive direct funding from NOAA; the funding will ultimately be provided to CAPA to perform a service on behalf of NOAA for the successful applicants. The principal organization (likely the application submitter) will still enter into a contractual relationship with CAPA Strategies for risk mitigation purposes, to ensure that borrowed mapping gear is properly cared for and returned. Staff time, remuneration of volunteers, and other expenses will not be covered through NOAA funds via this application. Please include in-kind and financial support to cover these expenses as matching funds in this application.

COVID-19 Pandemic Considerations

The summer 2020 mapping campaigns were all conducted successfully using an enhanced safety protocol designed by CAPA Strategies, which included sterilization of gear and encouraged participants to follow local safety ordinances of their respective cities, counties, and states. Training and logistical coordination is performed online. We anticipate that any COVID-19 issues faced in 2021 will be similar to those addressed in 2020, and we are optimistic that campaigns will be able to move forward. However, we remain in a “wait and see” posture as we cannot predict the status of the pandemic for summer 2021.

Tentative Timeline

17 November 2020
Application form opens on this page. An announcement will go out via the Heat Beat e-newsletter as well as through several other partners. Please join the mailing list to stay informed.

8 January 2021
Application Deadline for interested communitie.

1 February 2021
Anticipated Notification of selected communities.

14-26 February 2021
Onboarding call scheduled with selected communities

1 March 2021
Communities confirm participation and finalize any matching funds Local campaigns are then run throughout the summer depending upon local climate and other factors. Results from the campaigns are available in the fall.

Application Review Criteria

There may be more interest than we have funds or capacity to support in 2021; therefore, we will use a review panel process to prioritize the applications for support. The panel typically consists of 3-5 panelists. Interested applicants for NOAA-supported campaigns will be expected to address the following criteria in their application form:

  • Can you articulate a clear need for the campaign and resulting data?
    The UHI effect often leads to a heterogeneous distribution of heat throughout a city, ultimately leading to residents in some neighborhoods facing higher exposure to heat extremes than others. Research has shown strong correlation between UHIs and health and vulnerability indicators. Communities should be able to articulate why a community science field campaign is important for engaging the community, and why the maps of the UHI effect are needed to explore and address these issues.
  • Do you have local leaders and ready partners required to make your campaign a success?
    Experience shows that cities with strong leadership from a local host organization as well as a robust set of partners from all sectors — education, government, NGOs, and the private sector — make more effective campaigns and, thus, will be given higher priority. We prioritize diversity and inclusion in the engagement of community members, and prioritize campaigns and partnerships that can engage populations that are often underserved or underrepresented in scientific studies.
  • What are your goals for the campaign, and for using the resulting engagement and data afterwards?
    Cities with clear plans to use these community science campaigns to promote awareness and understanding of urban heat and health issues, and to apply the data from the campaigns to plans to manage these issues in the short- and long-run, are preferred. For example, communitie have used these campaigns to support local long-term planning, inform immediate risk mitigation efforts, complement efforts to address equity issues, and for community education and outreach. New urban climate and health research objectives that employ the resulting data are also encouraged.
  • Will you be able to organize and adequately support your volunteers?
    Though the Heat Watch support materials have been developed to make planning a campaign easier, bringing together a set of volunteers and coordinating local logistics can be a challenge. We prioritize applicants that can clearly demonstrate their ability to organize, and prefer applicants that can support their volunteers’ efforts in some way.

Applicants are also encouraged to engage existing NOAA and/or NIHHIS activities and partners in planning and executing a local UHI campaign.

In addition to these considerations, other factors such as diversity of urban climate and urban structure (density, land use) may be considered in selecting cities to facilitate a better sample of city types for more robust model analysis.

Though not a requirement, applicants are encouraged to provide matching funds for the basic Heat Watch campaign, to split the costs with NOAA. The cost of a campaign for a medium-sized city (~50 square miles) is $10,000, while the cost for larger cities may be $20,000 or more. Cost matching allows us to reach more cities, providing more needed UHI mapping assistance.

Please note that the Heat Watch service provided by CAPA Strategies is available to any community outside of receiving NOAA support for these campaigns, and cities/counties able to self fund 100% of the cost of a campaign may reach out directly to CAPA Strategies to inquire about their services. Whether supported by NOAA or not, all Heat Watch communities are invited to be part of the larger NIHHIS-CAPA community of practice, and NOAA will make every effort to provide in-kind support to those cities as they perform their summer mapping projects in 2021.


  • What happens if more than one organization from my city applies?
    • Campaigns are most effective with a clear lead organization and many collaborating partners, so we will work with interested applicants to help synergize their efforts locally. Casting a wide net for partners when coordinating your application survey response will help minimize potential for duplication.
  • How much does a typical campaign cost (i.e. what level of funding does NOAA provide to CAPA to run a campaign in a city)?
    • The baseline cost for a campaign, which NOAA covers for cities with successful applications, typically ranges from $10,000 for smaller cities (< 100 mi^2) to $30,000 for megacities (up to 500 mi^2). Note that this is just the baseline funding for CAPA to help the cities run the campaign, provide gear and guidance, and process the data. This amount does not include reimbursement for time or transportation of volunteers or organizers.
  • We are considering applying with matching funds - what would be a recommended amount?
    • Matching funds are not required. However, many cities (about half of the 2020 cohort) are able to cost-share about 50% of the cost of the campaign. See the previous FAQ item for typical campaign costs. It's not a hard criterion in the evaluation, but bringing other funds to the table shows partner commitment, and enables us to reach more cities with our funding. If you do not have matching funds, it can still be helpful to identify how you will support your volunteers and other in-kind contributions.
  • My community already has existing urban heat island maps, but we are interested in doing the campaign. May I still apply?
    • Some city officials have indicated that their existing urban heat island maps are not sufficient for their long-term planning needs. So, yes, you may still apply. These campaigns are different from many other mapping approaches in that they consolidate satellite imagery and in-situ temperature information to create highly accurate and high resolution maps. For more information consult a recent publication on the mapping process [].
  • Is there a minimum or maximum city size for mapping?
    • The urban heat island effect can be experienced in cities of all sizes, though as a general rule it tends to increase with larger, denser cities (but there are ways to mitigate the effect and thwart this general rule!). We would consider a mapping project in any community, but would prefer those with a population of ~20,000 or higher.
  • What is the difference between the maps created by this project and those created through satellite measurements? And which one is more accurate?
    • Satellite measurements provide descriptions of surface “skin” temperatures, which includes roadways, sidewalks, and the tops of buildings and trees. The maps produced from this work describes air (or ambient) temperatures approximately 6 feet (2 m) above the ground. Each map product is useful for particular applications. EPA’s Urban Heat Island primer has helpful information to further clarify the differences.
  • I am a resident of a city, and do not work in this space, but I would like to see my city mapped or be involved in a campaign.
    • Great! We encourage you to reach out to your local science museum, city government, and other organizations to see if they are interested in coordinating a campaign.
    • If you would like to volunteer as a citizen scientist for a campaign in your area, just sign up for our newsletter to stay informed, and you’ll be among the first to know if your city was chosen for a campaign! Join the Heat Beat email list
  • For some potential volunteers, car ownership is a barrier to participation. Will biking, walking, or other forms of participation be possible?
    • Yes, biking and walking campaigns can be devised for limited, smaller areas of interest to engage participants in a more accessible, less carbon-intensive heat mapping exercise. The physical health and safety of participants, who will be asked to spend several hours outside on a hot day, is of important consideration for this campaign style.
  • Are cities outside of the United States able to be a part of this?
    • NOAA funds will only be available for U.S. communities, but residents in any other country are welcome to reach out to CAPA Strategies to inquire about running a Heat Watch campaign. We welcome Heat Watch campaigners in other countries to become part of the NIHHIS-CAPA community of practice.
  • My city is planning to do our own UHI mapping soon. Can we still work with you?
    • Absolutely. Though limited in capacity in terms of the number of cities we can support for mapping through the CAPA process any given year, we welcome collaboration with other cities and scientists working on urban heat island mapping. The campaigns are part of a broader effort to improve information and decision-making to reduce heat risk across the nation.
  • My city has already done a CAPA Heat Watch campaign. Will repeat cities be allowed?
    • Though we are interested in investigating the persistence of the heat island through multiple Heat Watch campaigns, we are not prioritizing repeat mapping activities at this time. Instead, we encourage researchers to investigate the longitudinal persistence of the heat island through complementary research, such as by using in-situ monitors and existing urban observing systems.
  • I would like to work with CAPA to map the UHI in my city even if I’m not chosen for NOAA support. Is this possible?
    • Yes. CAPA is an independent company and you can directly contract with them; or you may engage with another urban heat mapping service provider of your choice. If you do choose to work directly with CAPA, you'll still have access to other [non-financial] support from NOAA (e.g. heat  beat newsletter, cohort meetings, etc.).
  • What does “pending the availability of funds” mean, and when will we know if we can move forward?
    • As of the opening date of this application process (November 16, 2020) Federal agencies are operating under a continuing resolution (CR) to continue operations at the same budget level as the previous fiscal year. The CR is set to expire on December 11, 2020. Any funding past this date is subject to ongoing deliberations over the FY21 budget in Congress.



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NIHHIS-CAPA UHI Mapping Partners



Heat Mapping Campaign Roles

Every community that participates in a CAPA Heat Watch mapping campaign will need one principal organization that will lead the campaign, preferably in addition to several partner organizations that can assist with outreach and other tasks. The lead organization will need to enter into a contractual agreement with CAPA Strategies to ensure the safety of the provided mapping equipment and to be accountable for its return at the end of the campaign. Community partner organizations will help with planning and logistics, volunteer outreach, and application of the campaigns results.

CAPA Strategies is a private company that started the Heat Watch program in 2017. CAPA’s Heat Watch program provides start-to-finish guidance for running the campaigns, including all supporting materials. Once campaign logistics are collaboratively developed with Heat Watch program staff, local organizers will receive sensor equipment by mail shortly before conducting the campaign. The sensors are needed to measure temperatures and humidity across select areas of each campaign city, which will be used to produce the final report and maps of urban air temperatures and heat index in cities and counties. This introductory video describes CAPA's approach to the Heat Watch program. 

NOAA provides funding directly to CAPA Strategies through a sub-contract managed by Harmonic International. NOAA also provides logistical support, targeted weather and climate predictions to inform ideal campaign dates, as well as community building capacity and long-term support for implementing the UHI datasets in planning and preparedness through NIHHIS. NIHHIS is a NOAA-led, interagency platform for improving information and services to inform decision-making for heat risk reduction [read the 2-pager for more details]. All participating Heat Watch communities will become part of the growing NIHHIS-CAPA Community of Practice, and will be able to learn from other communities that have participated in these campaigns, and that are now using the resulting partnerships and data to become more resilient to extreme heat.



The Urban Heat Island Citizen Science Campaigns are made possible by:




NIHHIS is made possible by our participating agencies.










NIHHIS Headquarters

Address: 1315 East-West Hwy, Suite 1100
Silver Spring, MD 20910

About Us

NIHHIS is an integrated information system that builds understanding of the problem of extreme heat, defines demand for climate services that enhance societal resilience, develops science-based products and services from a sustained climate science research program, and improves capacity, communication, and societal understanding of the problem in order to reduce morbidity and mortality due to extreme heat.  NIHHIS is a jointly developed system by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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