“Extreme Heat” forecast provides California temperature projections for mid- and late-century

The platform also offers links to a variety of grant programs and other resources for building weatherization, solar power installation, neighborhood greening, energy efficient air conditioning, low-carbon transportation alternatives, planning assistance and other help for schools, local governments and low-income or disadvantaged homeowners.

The idea is to empower public agencies and community groups to target mitigation efforts where they are most needed in pursuit of climate justice, Dialesandro said.

“Heat is kind of invisible,” he said. “They wanted to make a visualization of how these scenarios are going to play out in the future and where we are now.”

The Healthy Place Index is not the only resource for this kind of information. Climate resiliency planning has focused on future forecast conditions, potential mitigation measures and climate justice issues for some time.

Cal-adapt.org provides access to localized climate projections, for instance, while the California Heat Assessment Tool, funded by the California Natural Resources Department, overlays projected health-impacting heat events with data on social vulnerability, health and environment information.

There’s also the new federal web site, heat.gov, which provides abundant information on weather conditions and health, focusing new attention on the risks of extreme weather like wildfires, droughts, disease, and high heat.

The HPI heat edition’s capacity for plugging in an address and creating a detailed data profile sets it apart, painting “a more visible picture of the likely scenario we’re heading toward,” Dialesandro said.

A still-evolving tool

Barbara Lee, director of climate action and resiliency for Sonoma County, said the Extreme Heat Index is a useful tool for the kinds of planning the county has under way to help residents confront the future.

Though much of it is still evolving, the county is deeply involved in developing emergency planning, resilient land strategies and programs for aiding residents in doing the kind of individual work that will help them prepare their homes to handle temperature extremes.

Part of the focus is preparing for extreme heat events, which, as Lee noted, often go hand-in-hand with high-fire danger and intentional power shutdowns just when buildings most need cooling.

That means increasing outreach and education about the risks of extreme heat exposure, the signs of trouble and simple but necessary steps like consuming enough water to replace what’s lost because of heat and/or activity, Lee said.

It also means ensuring people have somewhere to go to find relief — whether it’s a well-insulated or air-conditioned building, a shady spot, a leafy tree or some other greenery.

One project involves preparing the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building, which currently has no air conditioning, to serve as a high-efficiency, solar-powered cooling center or shelter, if needed, equipped with storage batteries and backup generators, said Jane Elias, the county’s energy and sustainability program manager. The county also is working to acquire portable systems that could be deployed strategically around the county in the event of emergency, including to help power cooling units, she said.

The Energy and Sustainability Division offers homeowner workshops on a host of climate resilience topics, from solar and battery storage basics to funding improvements. The county offers financing for more than 100 kinds of improvements, including things like air sealing, insulation, cool roofing and upgraded windows. It can help with grant programs tailored to single-family, multifamily and commercial entities, Elias said.

In the natural environment, the county recently circulated a draft of its Sonoma County Climate Resilient Lands Strategy, with a goal, among many, of bringing climate resilience to those most at risk, in part through natural buffer zones, urban stream restoration and support for regenerative agriculture.

The county already is pursuing funding to help plan a series of connected green corridors that would be run through the built urban environment where there is intrinsically less access to open space, Lee said.

“It doesn’t need to be a single long park,” she said, but more “like pearls on a string,” with a park next to a community garden next to a bike trail or farm.

Conceptually, they would run east-to-west through the Larkfield/Wikiup and Cotati/Rohnert Park areas, as well as from northeast Santa Rosa toward the Springs area west of Sonoma. Another corridor is envisioned from northwest Santa Rosa south to Rohnert Park.

Lee said the county would like to pull residents from affected areas to work on the plans with help from community groups and nonprofits so there’s true public engagement.

“We know that we are going to experience those levels of extreme heat,” Lee said. “We will experience them here locally, in the future, and what we’re doing now is figuring out all the places we need to think about and continue to deliver the services we need to deliver.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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