Sustainable cooling urban areas

As global average temperatures rise, so does the danger caused by the climate crisis, especially in urban areas. Cities during heat waves are one of the most dangerous areas. Infrastructure accumulation buildings, roads, and build-up urban surfaces absorb more energy than non-built-up rural areas. and cause the growth of the Urban Heat Island (UHI) phenomenon.

High temperatures are the most dangerous for groups such as physical workers, people with disabilities, youngest and the oldest users of urban spaces. Heat waves intensified by the urban heat island phenomenon are also dangerous for people active in sports. UHI combined with chemical reactions taking place in the lowest layers of the atmosphere pollutants emitted from internal combustion engines, both with solar radiation and high temperature. That mix leads to the formation of photochemical smog, and in consequence increase in the risk of death, particularly due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Our goal is to help cities overcome the alarming trends of climate change that we are currently observing and to prepare cities to function in extreme conditions of high temperatures. We believe that thanks to the analysis of satellite data and data-based insights supported by AI algorithms, we will be able to help cities in the appropriate selection of remedial measures to mitigate the urban microclimate.

We want cities to become oasis - spaces that are safe for residents and the ecosystem. Cities adapted to extreme weather conditions

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Cooling cities has never been more important in human history than it is nowadays. Over the past decades, we can observe an increase in the share of deaths due to extreme temperatures. Currently, according to WMO data, it is the deadliest environmental threat.

Satellite data analysis

The use of repeatable and reliable data provided by NASA or ESA, which includes the Copernicus Sentinel satellite program, LANDSAT, and ECOSTRESS supports close monitoring of the urban surface heat island phenomenon but also gives us possibilities to track plant evapotranspiration processes. What is more the multispectral measuring instruments that we use allow us to examine the condition of the chlorophyll, and in consequence, allow for a better understanding of the space around us and the relationships between various areas of human activity.

Appropriate use of such information helps to plan the conditions for creating a safe space that will have the ability to regulate the urban microclimate.

This is the most achievable and measurable goal, and an additional advantage of working with satellite data is the ability to travel in time, i.e. reaching for the repository of Landsat and Sentinel programs, where we can find data that is even more than 50 years old - congratulations to LANDSAT!

How to cool down the city?

Point solutions for building such as air conditioning systems seem to be an intuitive way to lower the temperature. Nothing could be more wrong. Unfortunately, this solution, due to the huge consumption of electricity and way of functioning, releases even more anthropogenic heat, contributing to the increase in the intensity of the urban heat island phenomenon.

The solution that can cool down the whole city is urban greenery. By increasing the share of biologically active areas in the urban morphology. The introduction of vegetation will allow the creation of new biological activities that will effectively reflect infrared radiation, thus preventing excessive heating up the surface. New trees and bushes will also introduce valuable shade, increasing the quality and usability of urban spaces.

One of the most significant phenomena in the cooling of cities is the evapotranspiration process. In the case of the most dense urban areas, it is necessary to introduce hybrid solutions due to the lack of space for vegetation. Such solutions include green tram tracks or green rooftops or vertical green walls. Good practices also include artificial water reservoirs or fountains, which may additionally lead to an increase in the biodiversity of urban areas.

Author: Maciej Jurzyk | Oasis City Lab 13.06.2023

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Reported deaths worldwide by hazard type (1970-2021), Source: WMO

NASA ECOSTRESS sensor in the ISS

Increase in average temperatures in Europe (1950-2022), Source: WMO

LANDSAT series celebrating 50 yers, Source: USGS

A good understanding of the relationship between individual aspects of the climate functioning of cities, as well as appropriate countermeasures planning is extremely important in times of climate crisis. The current possibilities that we obtain due to access to satellite data and the possibility of their analysis using artificial intelligence algorithms give cities a chance to become green and friendly oases, where the problem of extreme temperatures will not be such a threat anymore.

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  • Arnold C.L (1996) Impervious surface coverage: The emergence of a key environmental indicaton

  • M. Baccini et. al (2008) Heat effects on mortality in 15 European cities.

  • J. A. Sobrino, N. Raissouni (2010) Toward remote sensing methods for land cover dynamic monitoring: Application to Morocco

  • Huang G (2011) Is everyone hot in the city? Spatial pattern of land surface temperatures, land cover and neighborhood socioeconomic characteristics in Baltimore

  • EM. Fischer (2012) Contrasting urban and rural heat stress responses to climate change

  • Ban. Y (2016) Multitemporal Remote Sensing: Methods and Applications

  • T. Oke (2017) Urban Climates

Scientific basis and sources: