My research focuses on the intersection between urban planning and climate change and explores how climate action planning can make more sustainable and resilient cities. I utilize qualitative research methods such as stakeholder interviews, workshop facilitation, and content analysis of public policy documents. One broad area of my research is better understanding how the urban planning profession and planning processes in cities are addressing climate change, and how effective these approaches are in documents like comprehensive plans and hazard mitigation plans or newer climate action plans. Although I am interested in the evolution of climate action planning across diverse city sizes and geographies, a particular focus of my research is exploring how cities can increase their resilience to extreme heat. Extreme heat is an increasing climate risk with less existing governance structure than other risks like sea level rise and urban flooding.

I am always open to discuss research collaboration opportunities. If you are a prospective undergraduate or graduate student who shares similar interests, please contact me.

Current Research

Urban Heat and Health Interventions and Evidence Gaps

PI: Ladd Keith, Graduate Research Assistant: Erika Lynn Schmidt

The goal of this project, in partnership with NOAA’s Climate Program Office, is to develop detailed profiles of five U.S. cities’ approaches to heat-health resilience and to identify opportunities to improve them using climate information. This project will include a deep-dive into emerging planning and governance of extreme heat through stakeholder interviews and policy analysis. After the profiles are completed, virtual dialogues will be held with the stakeholders in these cities and a pilot plan integration for heat will be conducted.

Funding: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), A Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program (RISA), Climate Assessment in the Southwest (CLIMAS)

Planning for Extreme Heat Survey

The planning profession is uniquely situated to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat. Yet until recently, efforts to plan for extreme heat have been limited. Given the increased focus and urgency of extreme heat risk, we conducted a survey of U.S. planning professionals from geographically diverse communities representing a range of population sizes. This goal of this survey was to better understand how heat risk perceptions, current planning activities, and barriers to action vary across the country. To our knowledge, our survey is the first nationwide assessment of extreme heat planning. The results will be useful for researchers, urban planners, emergency responders, policymakers, and climate service providers. This will establish important baseline information for a growing area of planning practice and scholarship.

PI: Sara Meerow and Ladd Keith; Graduate Research Assistant: Tess Wagner

Visioning a Cooler Tucson

Visioning a Cooler Tucson: Participatory Planning for Extreme Heat Resilience

PI: Jonathan Jae-an Crisman; Co-I: Ladd Keith and Gregg Garfin; Graduate Research Assistant: Ida Sami

This interdisciplinary research project seeks to harness digital visualization to increase public education and involvement in policy decisions, as the Tucson area considers ways to adapt to extreme heat brought on by climate change and the urban heat island effect. The project includes the creation of an interactive visual learning tool that helps people understand the implications of climate change, the urban heat island effect, and extreme heat, and make informed decisions about their own preferences for strategies to reduce impacts. The digital tool will include information about extreme heat and the impacts of a variety of planning and design adaptation strategies. After participants have examined material in the learning modules, a poll will collect their feedback about desired interventions and data about the impact of the learning process. [more information – external link]

Funding: University of Arizona, Office of Research, Innovation, and Impact

Climate Profile for the City of Flagstaff

Community Climate Profiles to Support Adaptation Planning

PI: Alison Meadow; Co-I: Ladd Keith, Sarah LeRoy, and Jeremy Weiss

Central research question: How can clearly conveyed, geographically-specific climate information, produced by climate experts, improve the process of climate change adaptation planning for communities? In this project our goal is to create community climate profiles including climate information, such as 1) summary analysis of historical/instrumental temperature and precipitation data at local scales; 2) non-technical explanations of key climate phenomenon that impact climate and weather in the region; 3) depiction and discussion of current climate trends for the location of interest; 4) depiction and discussion of climate projections at different Representative Concentration Pathways; and 5) a summary of expected climate impacts. Partner communities so far include the City of Flagstaff, AZ; Dove Mountain HOA in Oro Valley, AZ; Laguna Pueblo, NM, and the City of Sedona, AZ. [more information – external link]

Funding: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA), Climate Assessment in the Southwest (CLIMAS)

Completed Research

Tucson Urban Heat Island Map
The Tucson region’s urban heat island map.

Evaluating the Use of Urban Heat Island and Heat Increase Modeling in Land Use and Planning Decision-Making

PI: Ladd Keith; Co-I: Ben McMahan, Graduate Research Assistant: Tess Wagner

This study focuses on documenting the current use of urban heat maps and models in communities in Arizona and New Mexico and evaluating best practices and opportunities to increase their usability. Partner communities included the City of Avondale, AZ; City of Buckeye, AZ; Doña Ana County, NM; and the City of Santa Fe, NM. [more information]

Funding: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA), Climate Assessment in the Southwest (CLIMAS)

Case study cities in Arizona and New Mexico.

Assessing Policy Innovation: Climate Action Planning in the U.S. Southwest

PI: Ladd Keith; Graduate Research Assistants: Joey Iuliano and Amanda Maass

The goal of this research is to document how cities in the Southwest are innovating climate action planning through the content analysis of general plans and interviews with planners in six case study cities in Arizona and New Mexico. [more information]

Funding: U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA), Climate Assessment in the Southwest (CLIMAS)