Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name


Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Dr. Anna Klene

Commitee Members

Dr. Christiane von Reichert, Dr. Brian Steele


urban heat island, climate change, Geographic Information Science, ArcGIS, socioeconomic sensitivity


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Geographic Information Sciences


How do we conceptualize vulnerability or resiliency to a natural hazard when it has not historically been understood as such? This study focuses on Missoula, located in mountains of western Montana, which has steadily grown by 1-2% per year to almost 75,000 residents. The formerly temperate quality of its winters and summers has also been changing. Projections from the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment estimate the state will experience a 2-5°F increase in mean annual air temperature over the next two decades, prompting city and county officials to plan for scenarios not formerly in their consideration. Of further concern is the increasing frequency of extensive summer wildfires and accompanying poor air quality that prevents the low cost venting of homes during cooler evenings. This study was facilitated by the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) collaboration between local (City of Missoula, Climate Smart Missoula), state (University of Montana), and national (TEX, University of Notre Dame) stakeholders seeking to create a climate change plan.

Areal interpolation from U.S. Census American Community Survey block-group data to the block level, and dasymetric mapping were utilized to account for the unpopulated public lands that occupy substantial portions of many blocks. Socioeconomic variable layers (age, income, education, employment, living alone, multi-unit housing, mobile housing, insurance status, and disability) were combined in a Multi-Criteria Analysis to map sensitivity and exposure variables of land surface temperature and land-cover data to predict the populations most vulnerable to heat (and smoke) risks. The resulting maps will be utilized by Missoula city and county planners to allocate resources for mitigation, such as recommendations for the selection of building materials in new construction, installation of cooling shelters, and enhancement of urban forest. This study was designed to develop a methodology that could be readily replicated by other small communities to implement and update as needed.



© Copyright 2018 Julie J. Tompkins