County, ASU partnership focuses on heat extremes, air quality

ASU President Michael Crow delivers a presentation in May to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Industrial Development Authority regarding a partnership for conducting research to help reduce urban heat and improve air quality. (Submitted photo)

The Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority has approved a grant to the ASU Foundation for a New American University for research to help reduce urban heat and improve air quality.

The $2.99 million grant is for three years and will help get the Healthy Urban Environments Initiative at Arizona State University off the ground, according to a release.

“As regional leaders, our job is to improve quality of life and that is what this partnership will do,” stated Steve Chucri, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors.

Temperatures in Maricopa County are reaching “new extremes,” according to Steve Chucri, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, and a new effort has been launched for research to help reduce urban heat and improve air quality. (File photo/Arianna Grainey)

“The fact is, our weather is reaching new extremes, making ozone a bigger problem. This summer, we had more than 40 straight days of ozone alerts. This can’t be the new normal. As chairman, I committed us to the hard work involved in building a smart, sustainable future.”

Michael Crow, ASU’s president, stated the university “is committed to conducting use-inspired research that has meaningful value to the community we serve. This initiative is a great example of how ASU can work with the county to make an impact on a very real threat to the Valley: that of increasing heat and associated air quality issues.”

Data from ASU shows, over the past 90 years, temperatures are rising faster in the urban core of Maricopa County than on its outer edges.

It is most noticeable at night. While average daytime high temperatures in Phoenix have increased 4 degrees Fahrenheit in that time, the average nighttime low temperatures have increased 17 degrees, according to the release.

Meanwhile, measurements at Casa Grande National Monument show average high temperatures have stayed flat and average lows are up 6 degrees.

“Keeping heat and air pollution from increasing in a fast-growing urban region like Maricopa County is an enormous challenge that must be met in order to maintain our quality of life and our economic vitality,” stated Charles Redman, the founding director of the School of Sustainability and co-director of the HUE Initiative.

Mr. Redman, who will co-direct the HUE Initiative with Matthew Fraser, a professor in ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, stated that initial duties of HUE include launching a research, solutions and innovation incubator; implementing and evaluating new insights in a real-world context; performing public, workforce and management education; and serving as a nexus for stakeholders seeking solutions to urban heat and air quality.

“The Healthy Urban Environments Initiative isn’t about theory and it’s not only about the weather; this initiative is about providing practical tools that will ensure Maricopa County continues to be one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions with a strong, diverse economy where our kids and grandkids can thrive,” stated Jeremey Stawiecki, Maricopa County IDA president.

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