Description and Details

Urban Inte­grat­ed Field Lab­o­ra­to­ries (Urban IFLs) are to be con­struct­ed in Bal­ti­more, Chica­go, and the Texas Gulf Coast through fund­ing from the U.S. Depart­ment of Ener­gy to bet­ter under­stand the cli­mate events rep­re­sen­ta­tive of these areas and how they impact urban sys­tems. The project loca­tions were select­ed under peer review with projects receiv­ing total fund­ing of $66 mil­lion for a project dura­tion of 5 years and more selec­tions may be made in the fis­cal year 2023. The impacts stud­ied will be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of diverse demo­graph­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics includ­ing how cli­mate-induced pres­sures affect peo­ple and infra­struc­tures dif­fer­ent­ly and how they vary geo­graph­i­cal­ly. These projects con­tribute towards Pres­i­dent Biden’s goal of a net-zero car­bon econ­o­my by 2050 and the DOE Office of Science’s com­mit­ment to the “Jus­tice 40” ini­tia­tive as these projects help obtain the knowl­edge need­ed to build cli­mate-resilient cities and invest in diverse com­mu­ni­ties affect­ed by the chang­ing climate. 

The Urban IFL teams for each city will be com­posed of indi­vid­u­als with sci­en­tif­ic exper­tise from var­i­ous insti­tu­tions includ­ing uni­ver­si­ties, gov­ern­ment enti­ties, and non­prof­it affil­i­ates. Focus­es will include mod­el­ing, data assim­i­la­tion, and field obser­va­tions to inves­ti­gate the envi­ron­ment, infra­struc­ture, and com­mu­ni­ties of the urban areas. The insti­tu­tions involved in the IFL projects will have par­tic­i­pa­tion from local and minor­i­ty groups to sup­port and train lead­ing sci­en­tists. Increas­ing the sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge of urban sys­tems will be essen­tial to pro­duce equi­table cli­mate and ener­gy solu­tions. Focus­es includ­ed address­ing the cli­mate change impacts on his­tor­i­cal­ly under­rep­re­sent­ed and dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties. While these projects are rep­re­sen­ta­tive of spe­cif­ic urban regions, they share sim­i­lar­i­ties to oth­er U.S. areas so the tools and knowl­edge gained in these projects will be of ser­vice to oth­er cities. 

Specif­i­cal­ly, the IFL project in Bal­ti­more, MD will be led by John Hop­kins Uni­ver­si­ty and will focus on the met­ro­pol­i­tan area that faces chal­lenges of aging infra­struc­ture, the inequitable bur­den of air and water pol­lu­tion, and increas­ing risks asso­ci­at­ed with heat and flood. These prob­lems are present in many mid-sized U.S. cities on the east coast and the mid­west. The project will focus on under­stand­ing cli­mate impacts while also enabling author­i­ties to adopt solu­tions that will invest in under­rep­re­sent­ed com­mu­ni­ties and allow them to with­stand cli­mate change pres­sures. Spe­cif­ic inter­ests will include mod­el­ing the urban atmos­pher­ic bound­ary lat­er, ris­ing sea lev­els, and a broad-based sur­vey of city res­i­dents to under­stand what adap­ta­tion strate­gies are desired from the com­mu­ni­ty. The social impact of the study will high­light how the com­mu­ni­ty under­stands cli­mate change and its var­i­ous adap­ta­tions and how this knowl­edge will impact deci­sions made dur­ing the project. Addi­tion­al­ly, urban heat islands will be a major study due to their impacts on elder­ly pop­u­la­tions and those with asth­ma and oth­er pul­monary con­di­tions. The ulti­mate goal will be to make a mean­ing­ful urban envi­ron­ment mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem that is dri­ven by con­sid­er­a­tion of how the chang­ing cli­mate will impact the sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ty. This project empha­sizes diver­si­ty in knowl­edge, voic­es, and deci­sions but is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of urban areas and neglects voic­es from rur­al areas. 

CEE sub­jects: Envi­ron­men­tal Engi­neer­ing, Earth Sys­tems, Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy and Sus­tain­able Infrastructure

Discussion Questions

  • What con­sid­er­a­tions would you like to be tak­en into account in the IFL projects? Are there spe­cif­ic urban or social issues you would like to see addressed? Are there cer­tain groups you would like to see be includ­ed in the dis­cus­sion for these projects?
  • What kind of account­abil­i­ty could be intro­duced to ensure these projects include and pro­tect under­rep­re­sent­ed groups or the environment?
  • What kind of cli­mate resilience adap­ta­tions would you like to see incor­po­rat­ed into urban areas for these projects and what are some ben­e­fits and chal­lenges with those adaptations?
  • This project is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of urban com­mu­ni­ties, but how might this project be adapt­ed for rur­al areas?