Statement of Purpose Prior research suggests an association between warmer temperatures and higher risk of violence, but no prior study has examined the association between heat and firearm violence across multiple locations. In particular, surface urban heat island (SUHI) intensity is a measure of summer heat that varies substantially within cities, and a possible violence risk factor that can be modified with interventions such as planting trees.
Methods/Approach We obtained cross-sectional data on assault-related firearm injuries and deaths in the 100 most populous cities in the United States 2015 to 2020 from the Gun Violence Archive; demographic data from the U.S. Census; and census tract-level SUHI intensity calculated from satellite imagery. Using Poisson regressions, we examined the association between SUHI and firearm violence and whether this relationship varied by index of concentration at the extremes (ICE) quintiles (a measure of social deprivation based on race and income), clustering by census tract.
Results Higher temperatures were associated with more shootings: the hottest quintile of census tracts experienced 2.15 times more shootings than the coolest quintile (95% CI=1.73–2.66). This effect persisted after stratifying by ICE quintile. In the most socially-deprived stratum, the hottest tracts experienced 1.33 times more shootings than the coolest tracts (95% CI=1.05–1.68). The estimated effect was even larger in the least socially-deprived stratum (IRR = 1.92, 95% CI=1.53–2.42).
Conclusion Higher neighborhood temperatures were associated with increased risk of firearm violence, even after controlling for social deprivation.
Significance This study identifies a relationship between urban heat islands and firearm violence and indicates that this relationship varies by levels of social deprivation. With the impact of heat expected to increase with continued climate change, quantifying the relationship between temperature and firearm violence, and variation by neighborhood deprivation, can support development and implementation of policies to mitigate heat-related firearm violence.
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