Using Earth Observations to Reduce Greenspace and Health Inequities in Connecticut

Using Earth Observations to Reduce Greenspace and Health Inequities in Connecticut

Using Earth Observations to Reduce Greenspace and Health Inequities in Connecticut

A NASA-supported project at the Yale School of the Environment, the State of Connecticut, and the City of New Haven

The 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states there will be more frequent extreme urban heat waves—with more hot days and warm nights—that create physical and mental health hazards. We know that Environmental Justice (EJ) communities, those who often have unequal access to the benefits of tree canopy cover like shading and cooling, will suffer the most under these heat waves. While there is robust scientific evidence about the correlation between tree canopy cover and urban heat, how tree planting in urban areas can mitigate heat’s effects is much less understood. Urban land managers and policymakers also lack information on where to prioritize planting trees in cities to create the largest impact on reducing heat exposure and to improve the health of EJ communities. This project aims to fill this knowledge gap.

The core of the project consists of three tasks: mapping trends in urban heat islands, mapping trends in tree canopy cover, and identifying EJ communities at risk for exposure to heat and identifying the best target tree cover intervention. By monitoring multi-decadal urban heat and tree canopy cover for the state and city, the project aims to impact statewide urban forestry policies, decision-making, and project design. 

This project brings together a unique group of researchers and practitioners to understand Environmental Justice communities’ access to tree canopies and exposure to urban heat in Connecticut. Yale faculty include Karen Seto (Professor of Geography and Urbanization), Xuhui Lee (Professor of Meteorology), and Michelle Bell (Professor of Environmental Health). Edith Pestana (Administrator, Environmental Justice Program) and Danica Doroski ‘17 MFS, ‘21 PhD (Coordinator, Urban Forestry Program) represent the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP). Carl J. Amento ‘72 YC (Executive Director, South Central Regional Council of Governments) joins the project to represent greater New Haven, and Colleen-Murphy Dunning (Director) joins from the Yale Urban Resources Initiative.


Faculty Members

Karen Seto

PhD, Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science, Yale School of the Environment, Director, Hixon Center for Urban Ecology

Xuhui Lee

PhD, Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor of Meteorology, Yale School of the Environment

Michelle Bell

PhD, MSE, MSc, Mary E. Pinchot Professor of Environmental Health, Yale School of the Environment