UNT Researcher Studies How Heat Impacts North Texans' Daily Lives

The North Texas Heat Research Project is looking at how we live, work, and play in the extreme heat.

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The start of fall is two days away, but you'd have to look at the calendar to know that with temperatures at or approaching 100 degrees Monday in North Texas.

"Heat is becoming a really big problem in ways we kind of saw coming, but still were underprepared for them," University of North Texas Assistant Professor of Anthropology Courtney Cecale said.

Cecale started the North Texas Heat Research Project after she moved to teach at UNT.

"When I first moved to Dallas I moved here from studying glaciers in the Peruvian Andes," Cecale said. "I was so used to being cold all the time. I moved here in the middle of August and think I saw on the dash on my car that it was 116 with the heat index, and I didn't know how people lived here."

So Cecale wanted to find out how North Texans live, work and play in the heat by researching the impact of heat on their activities and collecting data on how hot is in some neighborhoods compared to others.

"When you start to ask people about things they do when it's hot, 'Oh, I don't go outside, I don't see my friends, I stopped gardening,'" Cecale said. "There's sort of a loss of social network."

Cecale said some neighborhoods are nearly 20 degrees hotter than others, due to a lack of trees, more asphalt and building density.

"Investing in trees and investment in a tree canopy would really help to reduce that high heat," Cecale said.

Cecale said North Texas has more than 60 high heat days -- days when being outside without a way to cool off can be dangerous.

"There are actually solutions to these problems," Cecale said. "If we can't control the planet, we can control some things. We can control our neighborhood, we can control how we build the cities that we live in, and I think that really helps."

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