up close of heat map

Objectives & Methods

We propose to map rural heat islands and to co-produce knowledge on heat stress exposure and dissemination strategies with the farmworker community of Imperial Valley, California, including six major Research Activities:

  1. Map rural heat islands and trends using a combination of downscaled climate data and remote sensing data;
  2. Identify relationships between heat stress and cropping patterns and Salton Sea extent;
  3. Assess farmworker experiences of heat stress using in-situ monitors and participant interviews;
  4. Compare heat maps from 1 and 2 with in situ monitored stress in agricultural fields and farmworker homes, in both day and night-time conditions;
  5. Develop tools to distribute climate analysis results that can be accessed by households, managers, government agencies, schools, and the Heat Stress Awareness Program (HSAP);
  6. Obtain feedback on distribution tools, and determine how the farmworker and agricultural community accesses information about heat stress in order to develop effective communication strategies for future proposals.

Figure 1. Schematic diagram of the six Research Activities and their interconnections.

Our methods and results for the Imperial Valley will have implications for other areas in California experiencing water scarcity and cropping changes, such as the Central Valley. Our methodology, results, and communication strategy will provide guidance on how best to engage vulnerable populations in co-production of knowledge on climate information, perceptions, and experiences of heat stress under rapidly changing environmental conditions. Our project includes significant involvement of both community advocates (Lideres Campesinas) and will also help develop computing capacity and expertise at the growing SDSU-Imperial Valley campus.

Study Area

The Imperial Valley is one of the most important agricultural areas in California, especially for winter vegetable production and fodder crops. Irrigation of the 500,000 cultivated acres (Imperial County Farm Bureau, 2023) is supplied by the Colorado River. The Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) requires the Imperial Irrigation District to reduce water withdrawals by a maximum 300,000 acre-feet, using a combination of fallowing and water conservation methods. Some conservation methods result in decreased return flow to the Salton Sea, resulting in rapid decrease in the area of the Sea (Cohen et al, 2014).

Figure 2. Location map of the Imperial Valley and Salton Sea (black box), California.



  • Cohen, M.J., 2014. Hazard’s Toll: The Costs of Inaction at the Salton Sea. Pacific Institute, Oakland, California.
  • Imperial County Farm Bureau. 20203. Imperial Valley Agriculture (access date 2023-03-21).