An aerial view of Manchester lights at night

Urban climate impacts

Urbanisation results in significant modification of local climates, the most apparent expression of this being the urban heat island. The global urban population now exceeds the rural population, and the urban population may exceed six billion by the 2050s. Therefore, society and our urban infrastructure will be exposed to climate change resulting from both greenhouse gas emissions and developing urban microclimates. Our Urban Climate Impacts research utilises global and regional climate modelling capability of the Met Office Hadley Centre, with recent advances in the fields of urban microclimatology and the built environment.

Key aims

  • To improve modelling of regional and urban climate, climate variability and extremes through the application of numerical urban land-surface schemes.
  • To understand the additional risks of city-scale and regional climate change due to increased urbanisation and energy use.

Current projects

Climate change in cities

This project involves the analysis of urban micro-climates utilising an urban land-surface model, coupled to our global and regional climate models, to investigate the effect of climate variability and change on the urban heat island, and the influence on regional climate of urban land use and urban waste heat emissions. Unified Model and Joint UK Land Environment Simulator (JULES) provide a traceable hierarchy of models across different space and time scales required to quantify interactions between global climate change and urban micro-climates.

Sustainable cities

The Sustainable Cities: Options for Responding to Climate Change Impacts and Outcomes (SCORCHIO) project, led by the Centre for Urban Regional Ecology (CURE) at the University of Manchester, aims to develop tools for analysis of adaptation options in urban areas, with a particular emphasis on heat and human comfort in the built environment. The Met Office is providing new simulations of regional climate change, that include the effects of urban land cover and anthropogenic heat release with an emphasis on Manchester and Sheffield.

Adaptation and resilience in cities

The Adaptation and Resilience in Cities: Analysis and Decision making using Integrated Assessment (ARCADIA) project aims to provide system-scale understanding of the inter-relationships between climate impacts, the urban economy, land use, transport and the built environment, and to use this understanding to design cities that are more resilient and adaptable. The Met Office is providing a new set of probabilistic climate projections for London that are fully consistent with the methodologies adopted by the UK Climate Projections (UKCP09).


The use of probabilistic climate data to future proof design decisions in the buildings sector (PROMETHEUS) is led by the University of Exeter and aims to develop a new set of probabilistic reference years that can be understood and used by building designers. The Met Office is providing an analysis of observed and simulated urban micro-climates within the UK.

Climate change and impact research

The main objectives of Climate Change and Impact Research: The Mediterranean Environment (CIRCE) are to predict and to quantify the physical impacts of climate change in the Mediterranean, and to assess the most influential consequences for the population of the region. The Met Office has provided analysis of urban climate effects for the urban case studies of Alexandria, Athens, and Beirut and is working with partners to assess the potential future impacts of climate change for urban populations in the region.