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UT commissions program to study extreme Central Texas heat

Up to 30 researchers from UT and 10 members from the City of Austin will take part in the study.

AUSTIN, Texas — Researchers are looking for ways to better handle the record-breaking heat in Central Texas, and they will be getting a boost through a new federally-funded program.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) announced on Thursday the development of a federally-funded, 3-year research program at the University of Texas (UT) to study rising temperatures and their effects in Central Texas.

"We know everything going around us in terms of rising temperatures, the drought, smoke and the fires that are going on," said Dev Niyogi, a geosciences professor at UT and the lead researcher for the project.

Niyogi said they will be doing research over the next few years on these topics and collecting data.

"[The goal is to] translate global knowledge into local scale decisions that can be done by the city and community," Niyogi said.

Part of the research will include studying artificial intelligence (AI) and mathematical models. There will be up to 30 researchers from UT and 10 members from the City of Austin taking part in the program.

When it comes to addressing the rising temperatures, researchers will be looking at various phenomena such as the Urban Heat Island

"Cities can heat our environment. We can do something with our city to cool the environment and, armed with this knowledge, we can start addressing neighborhood by neighborhood and start cooling our cities and developing resistance better for our system," Niyogi said.

Austin City Councilmember Alison Alter (District 10) said the data gathered from this research could help the city's leaders make decisions during heatwaves.

"[We can] target our investments for the most needed and most vulnerable," Alter said.

Doggett said infrastructure could also be added to help people with the heat.

"It may be adding trees, adding shelters and water spots ... build our CapMetro stops," Doggett said.

When it comes to wildfires, researchers will analyze data that they say can help firefighters and residents alike.

"Local scale data for winds and temperature, and that's not necessarily available when you look at the data from the airport or Camp Mabry. We need all the data in between," Niyogi said.

Doggett said the request was submitted and got initial approval. However, it still has to go through the legislative process and be signed into law by Mayor Kirk Watson to officially be funded.

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