#PlanetPartners: EU-funded project will put people at the heart of city climate forecasts
Release Date 15 October 2019
A major new project backed by European funding is seeking to better understand how cities and people are influencing the urban climate, and vice versa.
The urbisphere project will look at the influence of people’s activities, and how changing neighbourhood designs, transport technologies or increasing flexible working hours could change things for better or worse.
It is backed by €12.7m from the European Research Council (ERC), of which the University of Reading will receive €3m to research the interaction between humans and the atmosphere in cities to better predict their immediate climates.
The project will also forecast changes to cities and the climate to reveal who will be most vulnerable to different hazards in future and how we might increase their resilience.
The announcement comes as part of the University of Reading's #PlanetPartners campaign, which launced today (15 October), highlighting the University's global collaborations and ways we can all help protect the planet.
Professor Sue Grimmond, urban meteorologist at the University of Reading, said: “More than half the world’s population live in cities and this is forecast to increase in the coming decades. If you want to address climate change, you’ve got to do it in our cities.
“Through this project, we will be investigating the interaction between cities and their urban climates and how changes to one will influence the other. Previously, these two research disciplines have been considered separately, but we will be bringing them together and focusing down to the level of neighbourhood as well as at a global scale.
“This is an example of pioneering research made possible by international partnerships, which can be applied to real world problems to make a positive difference to billions of lives.”
Better urban planning will be even more crucial in future, with city populations set to increase rapidly, a growing elderly population meaning more people are vulnerable to hazards like pollution and heat. On top of that, climate change will make hazards that already exist worse, and create new ones.
Currently, urban planners often try to make new buildings match existing ones in a neighbourhood by using similar heights and materials, but the researchers say that a new approach could be part of the solution to some climate hazards in future. Air circulation could be boosted by placing tall and short buildings next to one another, and using a mixture of light and dark-coloured materials, removing trapped heat and polluted air from street level.
Changes to working practices and public transport also have the potential to alter peak energy use times, which could change emissions and urban climates.
The research team will use London as a giant laboratory experiment. Groups of residents will be given wearable sensors to track their exposure to pollution, with an array of thermal sensors attached to tall buildings to understand how the city heats up and to identify pollution and thermal hotspots. The scientists will make similar observations in Stuttgart, Shanghai and Nairobi.
The project funding is for six years and is being run in partnership with the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece), Universität Stuttgart (Germany) and Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Germany).