Episode Archive

SCP E245 The Urban Heat Island Effect in Smart Communities, with Dr. Kelly Turner

Hi #smartcommunity friends. In this jam-packed episode of the Smart Community Podcast I have a great conversation with Dr. Kelly Turner, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA. Kelly begins by telling us about her current role and affiliations, her interesting and diverse background starting in politics, how her passion for research then led her to a PhD in Geography and Kelly tells us what a Smart Community is to her and how her current work fits into the Smart Communities space. 

Kelly then dives into the urban heat island effect and discusses some of the factors that contribute to heat retention in cities. She talks about how communities can make ‘cooler’ decisions and what factors contribute to reducing heat, we talk about the need to flip the script on heat retention issues, have better accountability and better ways to measure these issues to drive change. Kelly then tells us about cool paint and some examples of how it can reduce surface temperatures in cities, before we discuss the pros and cons of technology and the second order impacts associated. Kelly then shares some examples of how communities in the US are working towards more heat resilient cities, how some communities are more vulnerable than others, and shares some examples of the data and technology she uses to measure heat.

We finish our conversation talking about the emerging trends of innovative and inventive ways to deal with and mitigate heat, and make cities more palatable. As always, we hope you enjoyed this episode as much as we enjoyed making it! 

Listen here: 

What we cover in this episode:

  • Kelly’s current role and affiliations and her interesting and varied background starting in politics 
  • How her passion for research led her to further studies and a PhD in Geography 
  • What a Smart Community is to Kelly and how Kelly’s work relates back to the Smart Communities space 
  • The urban heat island effect project Kelly has been working on and some of the factors that contribute to heat retention in cities
  • How we can make ‘cooler’ decisions in our communities to reduce heat and what factors contribute to combating this issue
  • The need to flip the script on heat retention issues, have better accountability, better ways to measure these issues and open regulatory avenues 
  • The cool paint that is used throughout cities to reduce surface temperatures and a study Kelly conducted on this
  • The pros and cons of some technologies and the second order impacts and effects associated 
  • Some examples of how communities in the US are working towards making cooler heat resilient cities and how some communities are more vulnerable to heat 
  • The data and technology Kelly and people in her field use to measure heat and how it is then interpreted 
  • The emerging trends of more innovation to deal with adapting to and mitigating heat, for example naming heat waves to promote response and increased awareness and more inventive initiatives to make cities more palatable 


“To me, a Smart Community is one that is responsive to the information and the scientific information that is provided.”

“I think a lot of the information we have, there’s more than one good decision that can stem from the data. So there’s always this importance for the social science component, thinking about equitable distribution of resources, or thinking about what are our long term goals, and what are the trade offs and co benefits.”

“Most of my work recently focuses on cities and heat. And I guess if I were going to communicate one thing to your audience about heat is that heat has actually several problems, but they all tend to be sort of mushed up and conflated in our minds is one thing.”

“Those three types of temperature; air temperature, surface temperature and radiant temperature speak to different aspects of the urban heat problems. So I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand how the built environment contributes to each of those.”

“One of the things is, even that we’ve heard extreme heat causes more deaths than other weather related disasters, and by the way, those are usually based on really conservative estimates. However, we don’t have mature governance structures, or organisations or responsible entities dealing with heat the way we have, like a flood management plan, or a wildfire plan.” 

“The big issue is, if you have a problem, and nobody’s charged with addressing it, then it probably won’t be addressed. And so by using the term pollution, that’s a very sort of specific entrée point in the US context, to the Environmental Protection Agency, being able to have authority to regulate something, and also to impose or enforce our environmental justice mandate, which we have through them.” 

“I think that oftentimes we plan for what we can see. And what we see is so dependent on the kind of data that we have. And that’s the problem here with the stagnant maps versus the more dynamic mobility based maps.”

“There’s a lot of talk about, for instance air conditioning, compounding the problem of climate change and extreme temperatures. But if we’re going to accept trade-offs, it seems to me that the communities that we want to accept them in are those communities that are most vulnerable.” 

“I think what we need to be talking about are these innovative ideas that people are putting forth for dealing with adapting to, and mitigating heat.” 


Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Centre


Find the full show notes at: www.mysmart.community 

Connect with Kelly via Twitter, Instagram  or the UCLA Website  

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community  

Connect with My Smart Community via LinkedIn or Twitter and watch on YouTube
The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital.


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