Scientists take the temperature of hot cities

EU-funded scientists took the global warming battle literally to the streets of the cities that generate disproportionate heat fluxes, especially during increasingly prevalent heat waves. The URBANFLUXES team combined local readings and satellite-based data to map hot spots, which can help planners tackle the problem.

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  French Polynesia
  Georgia


 

Published: 23 July 2018  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
EnvironmentAtmosphere  |  Climate & global change  |  Earth Observation  |  Urban living
Innovation
Research policyHorizon 2020
Countries involved in the project described in the article
France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Italy  |  Netherlands  |  Sweden  |  Switzerland  |  United Kingdom
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Scientists take the temperature of hot cities

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© Tom Wang #53785689, source: fotolia.com 2018

Cities are notably warmer than their surroundings because urban structures absorb and trap more solar and thermal radiation than open land or vegetated and forested areas.

The results of the EU-funded URBANFLUXES project will help authorities monitor, test and act on city heat problems through sustainable urban planning, as well as targeted actions during peaks and heatwaves.

Anthropogenic heat caused by human activities like transport, industry and even spent body heat creates an urban heat island (UHI), which contributes to global warming. The UHI effect, coupled with heatwaves, which are expected to occur more often, leads to increased energy consumption (through air-conditioner use, for example), greater discomfort for populations and more deaths.

URBANFLUXES researchers studied this phenomenon by breaking down urban energy use and targeting man-made heat fluxes. They used Earth-observation (EO) imagery, taken from satellites, and combined the results with conventional meteorological measurements at street level. This satellite-based approach proved valuable in tracing heat signatures down to the local (100m x 100m) level, and can be applied to any city.

Data from the skies

Anthropogenic heat flux, or QF, is the change in heat resulting from vehicle emissions, space heating and cooling of buildings, industrial processing and heat released by people and animals living in the city. Urban planners and scientists need detailed QF data, down to the streetscape and neighbourhood level, as well as city-wide scales.

Such information is almost impossible to get from street-level measuring systems alone. The satellite remote-sensing tools used by scientists carrying out EO studies, like climate change modelling, enable researchers to estimate and mitigate the UHI effect more accurately.

The project established solid EO readings for use at the local or urban scale. This approach is transferable to any urban setting and can provide benchmark data for different applications, including climate models to assess the implication of the man-made heat fluxes and energy models that hone in on specific buildings. The data also feed decision-support systems for urban sustainable planning and mapping of emissions related to energy consumption. .

Project details

  • Project acronym: URBANFLUXES
  • Participants: Greece (Coordinator), Germany, France, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, Netherlands
  • Project N°: 637519
  • Total costs: € 2 687 446
  • EU contribution: € 2 346 193
  • Duration: January 2015 to December 2017

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