Scientists have long sought public participation to monitor weather and biodiversity. But as the planet continues to heat up, government agencies and advocacy groups are increasingly turning toward citizen science to guide their climate resilience efforts—and keep residents safe during extreme weather events. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has funded crowdsourced urban heat island mapping projects in more than 50 cities since 2017, and this August, the Knight Foundation announced nearly $700,000 in funding for crowdsourced flood and heat reporting across Miami-Dade County.

Researchers say community input can be especially valuable in communities like Harlem, where historic disinvestment and racist housing policies, like redlining, have left residents shouldering a disproportionate climate change burden. These neighborhoods are often urban heat islands—areas where building density and the lack of trees can make temperatures 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit higher than surrounding areas. Black New Yorkers are twice as likely as white non-Hispanic New Yorkers to die in extreme heat, according to city statistics.

“The scientific community is leaning into the idea that science can be an ally for justice, and a tool that communities have as they try to repair or address past harms or promote future changes,” said Rajul Pandya, vice president of the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Thriving Earth Exchange, which connects communities across the globe with scientists for collaborative research.

Satellite-based estimates of ground-surface temperatures can’t compete with dozens or hundreds of residents using thermometers and infrared cameras to document heat in their neighborhoods—and inside their homes. Crowdsourcing rainfall measurements during storms can uncover pockets of severe flooding that flood models often miss. Data like this—especially when combined with participants’ testimonies and feedback—can guide more targeted investments and interventions, from subsidized air conditioning to conveniently located cooling centers.

Read the full article about climate change data by Sarah Amandolare at YES! Magazine.