New method to manage heat stress in cities

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Until now, a good method to identify the effects of the Urban Heat Island effect was not available. The Meteorology and Air Quality Group of Wageningen University, together with Witteveen+Bos engineering & consultancy firm and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, have developed a method to provide insight into the risks from heatwaves at the urban district level. For the first time, this creates possibilities to take targeted local measures. It is known that global warming not only affects nature, but also our daily lives. During heat waves, mortality has been shown to increase, especially among vulnerable groups. For example, the 2003 heat wave in Europe resulted in a total of 45,000 additional deaths. It is also likely that heat waves will increase in number in the coming years, and that they will be more intense and longer lasting. A method has now become available: UCAM (Urban Climate Assessment & Management).

During heat waves, mortality has been shown to increase, especially among vulnerable groups

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The effect of heat waves is more severe in urban areas than in rural areas. Air pollution also plays a role, because the conditions during heat waves are unfavourable for good air quality. It is therefore crucial to have a reliable method to quantify all the effects of heat waves, so that appropriate measures can be taken. UCAM determines the influence of the urban environment on heat-related health risks. Besides objectively determining these risks, the method also provides guidance on the assessment of their severity. Furthermore, the method provides insight into possible planning-based solutions and their effects. This applies not only to existing built-up areas. The method can also be usefully employed in new construction, so the buildings can be better equipped to alleviate the effects of heat. UCAM has been implemented in an urban district in Ghent, Belgium, but not yet in the Netherlands.

Why is this so important

During heat waves, mortality has been shown to increase, especially among vulnerable groups. This system allows us to map risks and threats in urban areas during heatwaves. It is crucial to have a reliable method to quantify all the effects of heat waves, so that appropriate measures can be taken.

Biography

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Gert-Jan Steeneveld is an assistant professor environmental sciences at the department of meteorology and air quality at Wageningen University. His expertise are metereology, climatic change, climatology and soil physics.

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