The Importance of Cooling Centers

A new UCLA study examines how formal and informal cooling centers are being used in Los Angeles County.

2 minute read

January 16, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By clementkhlau

As climate change makes heat waves longer and more severe, people turn to both formal and informal cooling centers for relief in Los Angeles County. Formal cooling centers are typically offered at libraries, parks, and other public facilities. Informal ones are places like shopping centers, coffee shops, and other indoor spaces with AC. As reported in this article by David Colgan, a new UCLA study published online in the journal Applied Geography uses smartphone data to examine for the first time how formal and informal cooling centers are being used in L.A. County.

The study reveals that:

  • About 20 percent of the population uses cooling centers in the county.
  • The vast majority of those who visit cooling centers use shopping malls and other informal cooling centers; far fewer visit official cooling centers.
  • When temperatures reach or exceed 95 degrees, the cooling centers that see the greatest increase in visits are those located near public transit stops.
  • For people without automobiles, the elderly and other disadvantaged groups, official cooling centers may be the only practical option.

To reach their findings, the researchers used smartphone data that was anonymized and aggregated, which eliminates the possibility of revealing any specific locations for a particular smartphone. The data were acquired from Outlogic, a private location data provider that collects data on consenting users of third-party mobile phone applications.

The study offers several recommendations for decision and policy-makers, including placing more cooling centers in underserved neighborhoods where residents are more reliant on them, placing centers close to transit stops, and making cooling centers a part of more comprehensive strategies to mitigate extreme heat exposure.

For more information, please read the source article.

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