Heat is the leading cause of weather-related mortality in the U.S and poses a significant threat to public health. Future population exposure to extreme heat is expected to increase as rapid urbanization continues and heat waves are projected to last longer, become more intense and more frequent, challenging the resilience of urban systems. In this presentation, Middel provides an overview of her past and current research that addresses heat mitigation from a human perspective. Using Phoenix as a sandbox, she demonstrates how urban form, design and vegetation impact daytime heat at the microscale. She then explores how heat is experienced by pedestrians through the concept of subjective outdoor thermal comfort in a quantitative and qualitative seasonal assessment. She also presents a routing application that navigates pedestrians through heatscapes along the most comfortable route. To observe thermal conditions at the human scale, Middel introduces “MaRTy”, a biometeorological instrument platform that can sense how the urban environment is “felt” by a pedestrian. Observations from MaRTy will be employed to parameterize and validate a thermal comfort model that quantifies human heat exposure in cities based on an innovative Big Data approach using synthetic fisheye photos from Google Street View and Deep Learning. Middel’s research highlights the importance of microclimate-responsive urban design for creating pedestrian-friendly outdoor spaces and building heat-resilient “climate smart” cities.
Middel is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. She received her doctorate in computer science (visualization) from University of Kaiserslautern, Germany and holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in engineering from University of Bonn, Germany. Middel’s research interests are directed toward developing climate adaptation and heat mitigation strategies, specifically addressing sustainable urban form, landscapes and infrastructure in the face of climatic uncertainty in rapidly urbanizing regions. For the past five years, she has advanced the interdisciplinary field of urban climatology through applied and solutions-oriented research combining urban climate informatics, novel environmental sensing techniques and social science methods. Middel currently serves a 4-year term (2016-2020) on the Board of the International Association of Urban Climate.