Adaptive Capacity to Extreme Heat: Results from a Household Survey in Houston, Texas

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Heat islands, North America, Societal impacts


Extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related mortality in the United States, suggesting the necessity for better understanding population vulnerability to extreme heat. The work presented here is part of a larger study examining vulnerability to extreme heat in current and future climates [System for Integrated Modeling of Metropolitan Extreme Heat Risk (SIMMER)] and was undertaken to assess Houston, Texas, residents' adaptive capacity to extreme heat. A comprehensive, semistructured survey was conducted by telephone at 901 households in Houston in 2011. Frequency and logistic regression analyses were conducted. Results show that 20% of the survey respondents reported heat-related symptoms in the summer of 2011 despite widespread air conditioning availability throughout Houston. Of those reporting heat-related symptoms experienced in the home ( n = 56), the majority could not afford to use air conditioning because of the high cost of electricity. This research highlights the efficacy of community-based surveys to better understand adaptive capacity at the household level; this survey contextualizes population vulnerability and identifies more targeted intervention strategies and adaptation actions.

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