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In a pioneering study published by the Mineta Transportation Institute, researchers My-Thu Tran and Dr. Bo Yang have utilized thermal remote sensing to investigate the impact of traffic on urban heat islands during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research is groundbreaking in its approach, using advanced remote sensing techniques to explore the interconnection between transportation and urban climate change.

My-Thu Tran, a PhD student in the Geography Joint Doctoral Program offered by San Diego State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, has a strong background in GIS and Remote Sensing, with a focus on environmental problems, UAV/Drone Mapping, and Social-Ecological Systems. Her expertise in geography and geovisualization played a pivotal role in this study.

Dr. Bo Yang, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning at San José State University and a Research Associate at the Mineta Transportation Institute, brings a diverse educational background, including Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, and Geography. His research interests, which include GIS, remote sensing, and UAV/drone mapping for urban and environmental studies, significantly contributed to the depth of this research.

Their study, conducted during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, focused on the San Francisco Bay Area, a region that saw a considerable reduction in traffic volume due to lockdown measures. Using MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) thermal satellite data, the team meticulously measured the intensity of urban heat islands, a key driver of climate change in urban settings. The data from 2019 and 2020 were compared to assess the impact of reduced traffic on the urban heat effect.

This research not only provides insights into the relationship between transportation and urban climate but also sets a precedent for future studies on urban environmental dynamics. The findings are crucial for urban planning and policy-making, particularly in addressing climate change and designing sustainable urban environments.

For a detailed look at this significant study, visit the Mineta Transportation Institute’s website: Thermal Remote Sensing Research​​.