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Building a Cold Vulnerability Index for Brooklyn, NYC

As climate change drives global average temperatures upwards, variability in winter weather patterns is also expected to increase (Conlon et al., 2011). There is a widely accepted methodology for creating a neighborhood-level heat vulnerability index, and several such indices have been created for New York City. However, there is much less information available on neighborhood-level cold vulnerability. To account for the susceptibility of different population groups, we used the concept of social vulnerability developed by Cutter et al (2003). We combined several social indicators, case datasets, and environmental factors in our analysis, including an interpolated map of weather station data from 82 stations in the New York Metro area, to create the cold vulnerability index for Brooklyn. Some neighborhoods exhibited high vulnerability to both heat and cold, as measured by our cold index and the 2010 NYC Heat Vulnerability Index. These neighborhoods most notably include parts of central Brooklyn like Midwood and Flatbush. The availability and reliability of data was a major limitation on the scope and applicability of our research. Uncertainty is also added into our cold index model through the use of interpolation. Further study could focus on the relative weights of different factors for environmental and social risk. With more thorough weather station observation data, this model could also be expanded to include the rest of New York City. Finally, similar study research could be applied to determining vulnerability in the context of COVID-19.