Extreme Heat Vulnerability Assessment


Extreme Heat Vulnerability Assessment

The Extreme Heat Vulnerability Assessment is the first of several climate vulnerability assessments the Climate Program has planned. Areas with the most exposure, the highest population sensitivity, and the least ability to adapt will be identified as the highest priority for public health interventions. Flooding and Air Quality Vulnerability Assessments are planned for 2021.

This assessment combines health, economic, governmental, community, and environmental indicators together to create a vulnerability score for each census tract. The vulnerability score allows us to compare different areas to one another. The score assigned to each census tract is calculated using sixteen different indicators. The indicators are separated into three different categories: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. A combination of these categories calculates the overall vulnerability score. For more in-depth explanation of the vulnerability assessment and calculations, please see the Methods document.

Vulnerability Indicator Categories
Adaptive Capacity
Heat Index*
Household air conditioning
Night-time cooling
Cardiovascular diseases
Distance to cooling center
Respiratory conditions
Tree canopy coverage
Households living below poverty line
65+ years of age
Less than 5 years of age
Limited English proficiency
Outdoor workers
Population of Color
No health insurance
People with disabilities

* Heat Index: According to the National Weather Service, the heat index is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.

Identifying Vulnerable Areas

The map below depicts the overall vulnerability for extreme heat and health throughout Harris County. Click on the map for an interactive look at all of the indicators. Click here to open this map in a new tab.

Additional Assessment Information

  • The Heat Vulnerability Story Map provides information about the assessment process and why we looked at certain indicators. As you progress through the story map, you will discover how the different categories come together to create this heat and health vulnerability assessment.
  • This assessment relies on various indicators from different sources with varying levels of quality. Utilize the Indicators page for an in-depth explanation of each indicator. Here you will be able to find why the indicator is important for health, references, data sources, and limitations.
  • For more details about the methods used to create the vulnerability assessment, please see the Methods document
  • This assessment will be updated as new data becomes available.

Special Thanks - Thank you to the Harris County Public Health (HCPH) Data Warehouse team, Harris County Appraisal District, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Dr. Stephen Linder, and the Health of Houston Survey for providing their expertise and sharing valuable data with our team. This assessment would not be possible without their contributions.