Hot playgrounds and children's health: A multiscale analysis of surface temperatures in Arizona, USA

Jennifer K. Vanos, Ariane Middel, Grant R. McKercher, Evan R. Kuras, Benjamin L. Ruddell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Objectives: To provide novel quantification and advanced measurements of surface temperatures (Ts) in playgrounds, employing multiple scales of data, and provide insight into hot-hazard mitigation techniques and designs for improved environmental and public health. Methods: We conduct an analysis of Ts in two Metro-Phoenix playgrounds at three scales: neighborhood (1km resolution), microscale (6.8m resolution), and touch-scale (1cm resolution). Data were derived from two sources: airborne remote sensing (neighborhood and microscale) and in situ (playground site) infrared Ts (touch-scale). Metrics of surface-to-air temperature deltas (δTs-a) and scale offsets (errors) are introduced. Results: Select in situ Ts in direct sunlight are shown to approach or surpass values likely to result in burns to children at touch-scales much finer than Ts resolved by airborne remote sensing. Scale offsets based on neighbourhood and microscale ground observations are 3.8C and 7.3C less than the δTs-a at the 1cm touch-scale, respectively, and 6.6C and 10.1C lower than touch-scale playground equipment Ts, respectively. Hence, the coarser scales underestimate high Ts within playgrounds. Both natural (tree) and artificial (shade sail) shade types are associated with significant reductions in Ts. Conclusions: A scale mismatch exists based on differing methods of urban Ts measurement. The sub-meter touch-scale is the spatial scale at which data must be collected and policies of urban landscape design and health must be executed in order to mitigate high Ts in high-contact environments such as playgrounds. Shade implementation is the most promising mitigation technique to reduce child burns, increase park usability, and mitigate urban heating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bioclimatic urban design
  • Children's health
  • Geographic scale
  • Playgrounds
  • Surface temperature
  • Urban climate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Ecology
  • Urban Studies


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