Customisable Urban Model for Quantifiable Thermal Observations

Project: Research council

Project Details


With increasing urbanisation, the urban heat island is expected to grow, increasing the risk to inhabitants of heat related illness and death during hot weather. Anthropogenic climate change has already increased the likelihood of a 2003 summer heatwave by an order of magnitude, and such summers are expected to be normal by the 2040s. While the recent 2022 heatwaves are estimated to have caused an additional 3,271 deaths. Despite this the UK Government currently has no policy on how to combat the urban heat island beyond simply increasing urban green space. This is no doubt based upon the long-held belief that adding plants or water to an urban area will provide cooling by increasing evapotranspiration. However, the picture is far more complex, for both green and blue space, cooling effectiveness depends on the size, shape, distribution and type of green or blue space. This is in addition to the local climate conditions, time of year, the surrounding surface roughness, the available fetch length and the surrounding urban geometry and materiality. Currently there are gaps in our understanding of the inter-relationships between all these factors leading to green and blue spaces that provide little or no useful cooling and in case of blue space may actually worsen environmental conditions during hot still periods such as heatwaves. The effects of bluespace on the urban microclimate is considerably less studied than that of greenspace. This project aims to close these gaps in our understanding through the creation of a world leading test facility into the effects of bluespace on the urban microclimate.

The CUMQUAT array will allow the controlled testing of different sizes and configurations of blue space in an urban setting under natural environmental loading. The quantity and variety of environmental sensors deployed will allow a 'belt and braces' approach to data collection and provide sufficient data for the creation of detailed data sets for the validation of numerical simulations, but also exploration of the various heat and mass transfer mechanisms going on under different environmental loading patterns. The usefulness of the CUMQUAT array goes beyond the experiments detailed in this proposal and will allow researchers to gain a better understanding of the behaviour of urban waterbodies. For instance, when do urban waterbodies provide a cooling effect and how far does this spread horizontally, when do urban waterbodies worsen local environmental conditions exacerbating the risk to human health and wellbeing, under what conditions can urban waterbodies promote the vertical transport of heat, air and pollutants away from the urban surface? A better understanding of these conditions will allow urban areas to be better planned to incorporate bluespace to reduce or even neutralise the urban heat island and providing relief from heatwaves and future environmental change.
Effective start/end date1/03/2428/02/27


  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


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