Urban heat targeted by Jacksonville’s new Chief Resiliency Officer

Aerial panorama Jacksonville in the morning
The goal, Chief Resiliency Officer Anne Coglianese repeated, is to put plans into action. 

Summer heat in Duval County is no joke, and Jacksonville’s newly minted Chief Resiliency Officer is taking aim at it.

“Often we focus on flooding because it’s the most financially damaging threat that we have — it can really impact property and have a high price tag — but ultimately urban heat is the deadliest natural hazard that we face,” CRO Anne Coglianese said. “That’s based across the country — it takes more lives than hurricanes, wildfires or tornados. 

“It’s really kind of a slow-moving hazard, but one that I’m very focused on and want to make sure that we have a kind of drumbeat of action on in the data layer that’s going to come out of this partnership with (the University of North Florida) will be really helpful to us.”

The effort to tackle urban heat is a joint one between the City, UNF and the firm of CAPA Strategies, which specializes in this sort of project. UNF Assistant Professor Adam Rosenblatt will lead the research team.

“We will be gathering data during the hottest week of the 2022 summer,” Coglianese said. “There are sensors that will be attached to cars, and they will run predesigned routes throughout the City, multiple times a day, every day for a week. 

At the end of the week, they’re able to aggregate the data and get a base layer that shows where air temperatures are hottest in the city, which can help officials plan how they combat these heat islands. A $13,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is footing the bill. 

The firm Fernleaf is building a data tool project members can use to put the data to work for not just the heat project, but the full breadth of the resiliency office’s portfolio.

“It’ll take assets around the City, pair them with different threats, and then determine what the vulnerability and risk is on a parcel level,” Coglianese said. “So, this will be really granular risk data that we can use to make decisions.”

The goal, Coglianese repeated, is to put plans into action, not into reports that sit on shelves. 

The Tuesday noon meeting — a rare in-person event for those who worked on the Special Committee on Resiliency — was marked by regular giving of thanks from the City Council members to subject-matter experts and City staff.

“Our very first meeting, we said that we would be hiring a chief resiliency officer within hopefully a year, and promises made, promises kept,” Councilman Matt Carlucci said. 

Councilwoman Randy DeFoor recounted the accomplishments of the Committee, especially making Coglianese’s position permanent within the City Government. As for Coglianese herself, she comes to the job with a vast amount of experience, picked up in places with dire climate adaptation issues like New Orleans. 

There also may have been another reason officials selected her for it, Carlucci joked.

“Such a good Italian name,” Carlucci said. “That was one of the things that tipped her over the top, I think.”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


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