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 primary deliverables for this project will be a heat 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 Smart 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.

Project Team

Community Leads

Chase Jones is the Energy Conservation Coordinator for the City of Missoula, Montana, where he works to coordinate the implementation of Missoula’s Conservation & Climate Action Plan (CCAP). The City tapped Chase as the person to “lose sleep” over the CCAP’s goal of carbon neutrality upon its unanimous adoption by Missoula’s City Council in 2013. He has promptly increased his coffee intake ever since.

Prior to his current position, Chase spent twelve years working to maintain and improve the health of places and people through conservation, restoration, and sustainability-focused work with the Bureau of Land Management in Central California, as well as with the Montana Conservation Corps in Montana, Missoula County and the City of Missoula. In that work he has restored rare habitat as part of Fort Ord’s base reuse plan in Marina, California, led trail maintenance and construction crews deep into the wilds of Montana and Idaho, and designed transportation demand management plans and sustainable transportation rewards programs for individuals and businesses in Missoula. In addition, he gained extensive experience in energy efficiency and conservation as Missoula’s grants administrator and project manager for the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program’s grant to the City of Missoula.

Chase is a LEED Green Associate and a Level I Certified Building Operator and was named the 2012 Sustainability Advocate of the Year by Missoula’s Sustainable Business Council.

Amy Cilimburg helped launch Climate Smart Missoula in 2015 and now, as Director, works to strengthen connections, initiate new programs, and build a resilient community. She’s worked on climate and energy policy at the local, state and federal levels for the past decade, as a program director with Montana Audubon and by volunteering to help develop Missoula’s Climate Action Plans. She has a MS in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana.

Scientific Partners

Anna Klene is a professor of climatology in the Department of Geography at the University of Montana. Her research interests include the interactions between climate and geomorphology in Arctic and alpine environments, including examining impacts of the urban heat island in Barrow, Alaska. She serves on the Board and teaches courses for the Climate Change Studies Minor and the GIS Sciences and Technologies Certificate. She also serves on the Graduate Faculty of the Systems Ecology Program.


Ashish Sharma is a Research Assistant Professor at the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences and the Environmental Change Initiative at the University of Notre Dame. Sharma received his Ph.D. in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering in 2012 from Arizona State University with a focus on studying rainfall in semi-arid regions.

His research focuses on fundamental science questions at a range of spatial scales (regional to local) related to studying climate processes, developing better parameterizations for land- atmosphere and ocean-atmosphere interactions. He creates a new generation of high-resolution climate models capable of resolving relatively small-scale processes and impacts in a sufficiently physically based way that they can be used for future climate and air quality predictions with increased confidence. He performs targeted dynamical downscaling experiments with the overarching goal of creating “bridges” between global, regional and micro-scale modeling.

Sharma also performs applied research in evaluating climate extremes and its impacts on regional and local climate to inform city and conservation planners ways to increase the resiliency of the human and natural systems. For example, how urban ecological systems like community gardens, green roofs, low impact development areas, parks, green spaces, wilderness areas influence resilience of urban socio-ecological systems to extreme heat across geographic and decision scales in a context of changing climate and social change.


Nick Silverman is a Research Scientist and Adjunct Professor at the University of Montana. He is one of the lead authors of the Montana Climate Assessment and holds research positions in the State Climate Office and the College of Forestry. His academic interests include mountain landscape hydroclimatology, remote sensing, land surface modeling, and hydroeconomics. Nick has received an MS from the University of Washington and a PhD from the University of Montana in Regional Hydroclimatology. He has taught international courses on water resources at UNESCO-IHE in the Netherlands and is currently an instructor on engineering ethics at the University of Washington.. Nick is passionate about making connections between science, people and policy. He spends his free time speaking to farmers, ranchers, government agencies, and water resource professionals throughout Montana about impacts and adaptations related to climate and water interactions.


Julie Tompkins is a Master of Science student in Geography at the University of Montana where she has worked for the past 18 years managing grants, scholarships, and academic advising for the Environmental Studies program. Julie holds a BA in Anthropology with a minor in Native American Studies, and has fulfilled requirements for a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. In addition to her education and family, she is passionate about volunteering in the Missoula community.