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ASU researcher hopes shade-tracking tool will help pedestrians

PHOENIX — It’s hot seemingly year-round in the Phoenix area.

This past week has been one of the hottest weeks in the Valley’s history, with records getting broken daily thanks to the 115-plus degree weather.

To keep cool, it’s important to stay hydrated and stay in the shade. One Arizona State University researcher thinks the latter is more important than some people realize.

Ariane Middel has created a tool that tracks shade, in hopes of distributing her research for future use on what route a person should choose when going somewhere.

“Imagine you had an app for pedestrians where you could check the thermal comfort conditions,” Middel said. “You could ask your app, and the app would suggest to you the shortest-walking path, but then depending on your preference, you could also get the most comfortable path to walk and the app would route you to a different route that has more shade.”

She used Google Earth images and data calculations from her “radiant temperature cart” to collect information on how much shade is on ASU’s campus, and where all of it can be found.

“Out of all the variables that determine how comfortable you feel, shade is the most important factor, more important than air temperature, relative humidity, even the clothing that you’re wearing,” Middel said.

Middel is an assistant research professor in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and a faculty affiliate of the Urban Climate Research Center.

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