Bringing the heat out of the city | 6/18/2018 | Staff
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Heat waves are increasing worldwide—and that includes Switzerland. Cities in particular suffer as a result: the temperature difference between city and countryside can amount to several degrees. A new water tunnel at Empa could help to alleviate these urban heat islands in the future—for example by cities ensuring lower temperatures locally through vegetation, water surfaces and brighter materials and creating space for wind to aerate cities better.

April 2018 showed temperatures in Switzerland that are usually more common in May—and in May the weather was already reminiscent of midsummer. This is no longer an exception. Year after year the heat records are being broken. Cities suffer much more from the heat waves than the surrounding countryside: the temperature differences between urban zones and the surrounding green areas can be as high as several degrees.

Phenomenon - Heat - Islands - Reasons - Temperature

The phenomenon is known as urban heat islands. There are several reasons for the temperature differences: The dark surfaces of pavements and rooftops absorb more sunlight during the day—and retain it better. Additional heat is generated in the city by traffic and industry. Furthermore, there is usually a lack of vegetation that could reduce the temperature by evaporation. And the closely spaced buildings block the wind, which could bring cooler ambient air.

How can wind carry heat out of the city?

Heat - Effects - Energy - Consumption - Cooling

The heat is not only unpleasant but also has severe effects: Energy consumption for cooling is increasing, ozone levels at ground level are rising and temperatures are leading to additional illnesses and even deaths. And more and more people are affected: Over half of the worlds population lives in urban areas today. By 2030, this percentage is expected to rise to two thirds. Cities and research groups around the world are working on ways to alleviate this urban heat island effect. Special attention is paid to the wind: it...
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