Mapping Heat Vulnerability

Missoula, Montana

Featured image for the project, Mapping Heat Vulnerability

Image courtesy of Destination Missoula


The community of Missoula, Montana is a small, growing city that serves as a regional center for the Western portion of the state. Residents of Missoula are forward-thinking, outdoor-oriented people. The surrounding area is populated by ranching communities.

The city of Missoula is experiencing longer and hotter summers. Preliminary climate projections from the Montana Climate Assessment (to be completed in 2017) indicate that the state will experience a 2-5oF increase in mean air temperature over the next 20-30 years.

Increased summer temperatures disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, i.e. low income households, children and the elderly. Impacts include extended periods of poor air quality leading to decreased physical and mental health, the new reality and burden of summer cooling costs, and economic impacts from tourism losses. In response, Missoula would like to identify heat islands throughout the city to address priority areas for urban forest regrowth and expansion, and improvements to the built environment.


The scientist(s)would work primarily with Missoula’s Energy and Climate Coordinator, Chase Jones. Chase will commit to do the following:

  1. Develop a Project Management Plan
  2. Coordinate data needs and provide access to available data
  3. Maintain open lines of communication with the scientist(s), local and regional governments and the Thriving Earth Exchange

Scientist Wanted

Chase is looking for a GIS specialist with expertise in urban monitoring and surface heat flux measurements. The scientist would work with the community to develop city-wide energy-flux data at a determined spatial and temporal scale. This collaborative research will support the Community Climate Action Plan with a focus on recommendations for vulnerable populations.

Missoula anticipates that the scientific partner(s) will:

  1. Collect and/or provide needed data
  2. Create and heat map of Missoula
  3. Provide recommendations on how to interpret and apply data
  4. Contribute to education and public outreach to convey the implications of this study to vulnerable populations

The community is open to scientific partner(s) bringing in students to support this work.


Timeline and Outcome

The collaboration between the community and the selected scientific partner(s) should start in early Spring 2017. The community anticipates that this project will take approximately 12 months.

The primary deliverables for this project will be the heat (energy flux) map and adaptation recommendations. Data-driven recommendations will help guide future planning efforts and resource allocation in Missoula.

Following completion of the project, Missoula will continue to build on the work by collaborating with city foresters to improve the city’s urban forest and built environments. This project will be shared with the TEX community so that other communities may benefit from the developed methodology and results.

This work extends and enhances the work started with Missoula’s Summer Start program, which is a collaborative project to prepare the community to thrive amid increasing summer wildfire smoke and heat by helping Missoulians to be physically, mentally, and economically healthy and resilient.



Desired Skills and Experience

  • Expertise or experience in GIS, urban heat islands, and surface energy flux measurements.
  • A broad understanding of heat and heat extremes
  • Skill representing climate science, climate impacts, and sustainability design to city leaders and the public in a variety of settings.
  • Ability to identify and evaluate scientific research to find the pieces most relevant to the project goals
  • Ability to translate scientific knowledge to local officials and/or community members.
  • Experience and willingness to develop deliverables that meet community needs and/or allow local solutions to be adapted by other communities. This will be in addition to any scientific products (e.g. papers).
  • Commitment to regular remote and/or in-person meetings to revisit progress and plan steps
  • Ability to operate effectively in environments where science is not the only factor, and often not even the leading factor, in decision making.
  • Public speaking skills
  • Open to new ideas and able to respect diverse viewpoints and priorities
  • Relaxed, easy-going personality with a good sense of humor.
  • Ability to answer obscure questions