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Open AccessArticle

Assessing Vulnerability to Heat: A Geospatial Analysis for the City of Philadelphia

MES, MPH, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3620 Hamilton Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, 722 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Urban Sci. 2018, 2(2), 38;
Received: 4 March 2018 / Revised: 11 April 2018 / Accepted: 19 April 2018 / Published: 20 April 2018
PDF [2441 KB, uploaded 3 May 2018]


Urban heat island (UHI) effect is an increasingly prominent health and environmental hazard that is linked to urbanization and climate change. Greening reduces the negative impacts of UHI; trees specifically are the most effective in ambient temperature reduction. This paper investigates vulnerability to heat in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and identifies where street trees can be planted as a public intervention. We used geospatial information systems (GIS) software to map a validated Heat Vulnerability Index to identify vulnerability at the block level. Using a high-low geospatial cluster analysis, we assessed where the City of Philadelphia can most effectively plant street trees to address UHI. This information was then aggregated to the neighborhood level for more effective citizen communication and policymaking. We identified that 26 of 48 (54%) neighborhoods that were vulnerable to heat also lacked street trees. Of 158 Philadelphia neighborhoods, 63 (40%) contained block groups of high vulnerability to either heat or street tree infrastructure. Neighborhoods that were ranked highest in both classifications were identified in two adjacent West Philadelphia neighborhoods. Planting street trees is a public service a city can potentially reduce the negative health impacts of UHI. GIS can be used to identify and recommend street tree plantings to reduce urban heat. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban heat island; street trees; gis; vulnerability; climate change; urban planning urban heat island; street trees; gis; vulnerability; climate change; urban planning

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Barron, L.; Ruggieri, D.; Branas, C. Assessing Vulnerability to Heat: A Geospatial Analysis for the City of Philadelphia. Urban Sci. 2018, 2, 38.

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