Based on a high-resolution urban climate model, VITO is developing heat maps for European cities, from Lisbon to Prague. Policymakers can use these maps to assess the impact of climate change on urban heat islands, and possible adaptations to them.

With its flagship project Destination Earth, the European Commission is aiming to create an extremely accurate digital model of the Earth on a worldwide scale. In the context of this project, VITO is developing an innovative interactive tool to map urban heat. Destination Earth has received funding from the EU, and is being implemented by ECMWF, ESA and EUMETSAT. 

The maps in the new tool are generated from UrbClim, VITO's physics-based high-resolution urban climate model. They will be integrated into large-scale global climate models on the DestinE Digital Twin platform, currently under development. 

UrbClim scales down the results of the global climate model for selected urban areas, using detailed data from the field. This produces indicators of air temperature and thermal comfort with a spatial resolution of 100 metres. The result, urban heat maps, will be a practical tool for the EU's Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy (DG REGIO) to assess the unevenly distributed impact of extreme heat events in European cities. All participating European cities will be able to assess the impact of climate change on urban heat islands and possible adaptation strategies. 

Two demonstration cities 

Following an extensive start-up phase, VITO has already delivered new heat maps for two demonstration cities: Lisbon and Prague. In the first phase of the project, a broad community of stakeholders was brought together around the issue of urban heat stress. Three important users of the service were identified: apart from DG REGIO, the city of Prague and the Lisbon metropolitan area. Besides these three main users, various other stakeholders are involved in the service. 

The second phase of the project involved setting up the UrbClim model for the two demonstration cities. Model simulations for the reference period (2011-2020), based on ERA5 reanalysis data, were run and then used as input to calculate specific urban heat indicators. The resulting maps, as well as relevant adaptation scenarios specific to each demonstration city, were discussed with the latter. Based on the maps, a climate change and adaptation scenario analysis is now being conducted for indicators related to heat stress for the two demonstration cities. 

The interactive application for urban heat stress was developed on VITO's infrastructure. The application will be fully integrated into the components of the DestinE system as soon as they become available. 

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