Climate change and the urban environment

Aim: To show how towns and cities influence local climate using UKCP09 data and the latest research from the Met Office.

How towns and cities influence their local climate

Towns and cities significantly influence their local climate. Buildings and roads store heat during the day and release it at night. In addition, human activity - e.g. heating and cooling of buildings, traffic - leads to higher temperatures in towns and cities compared to more rural areas.

When assessing the risk to businesses from climate change, it is important to consider any additional impacts due to the urban environment. The following table shows some of the potential consequences of climate change in urban areas.

 Changes in local climate Effect Results
High temperatures People become more stressed by the heat Greater demand for air conditioning and refrigeration
Greater demand for water
Increased demand on health services due to heat related problems e.g. heat stress and respiratory illnesses
Closure of schools and offices
High temperatures Damage to transportation infrastructure e.g. roads melting and rail tracks buckling Restrictions imposed on use of transportation infrastructure e.g. closure of underground systems, closure of roads or speed restrictions imposed

Using UKCP09 data

UKCP09 data does not include the impact of urban heating on the local environment. However, by using the latest research from the Met Office (see plots below), this information can be overlaid on temperature maps from UKCP09.

The difference in minimum temperature (°C) during the period 2041–2050 (low emissions) The difference in minimum temperature (°C) during the period 2041-2050 (low emissions) The difference in minimum temperature (°C) during the period 2041–2050 (medium emissions) The difference in minimum temperature (°C) during the period 2041-2050 (medium emissions)
The difference in minimum temperature (°C) during the period 2041–2050 (high emissions) The difference in minimum temperature (°C) during the period 2041-2050 (high emissions)

Targeting business vulnerabilities in the urban climate

If urban heat areas are ignored the frequency of extreme events in the future will be severely underestimated. The Met Office will work in close collaboration with your business to identify potential business vulnerabilities within urban areas under climate change. Where vulnerabilities exist, we can show how different adaptation schemes will affect your business.

Last updated: 11 May 2011