Impact: Urban Systems

Impact on urban societies (WP4.2)

Contact persons: Koen De Ridder (VITO) and Bart Thomas (GIM)

Cities occupy only a small fraction of the European continent, but the majority of Europeans lives and works in cities. At the same time, urban agglomerations are particularly vulnerable to climate extremes such as heat waves and flooding.

Therefore, it is of particular relevance to investigate the impact of seasonal to decadal-scale climate (variability) on urban areas and their populations.

Our goals:

  1. downscaling of the spatially coarse resolution CMIP5 climate predictions to the urban scale, with particular focus on regions where North Atlantic SST variability and changes have a significant influence on the climate
  2. applying the urban climate model to obtain climate information at the urban scale from the CMIP5 forecast experiments, involving local stakeholders in the process
  3. investigating the relation between heat waves and the urban-rural temperature increment (urban heat island effect)
  4. coupling the high-resolution urban climate prediction fields to relevant socio-economic data, focusing on the health
  5. combining predicted urban climate fields with spatially explicit vulnerability maps (population density and typology, housing quality, age structure …) in order to produce heat risk maps


The spatial downscaling will be achieved by means of a deterministic urban climate model developed in recent years at VITO. Three cities have been selected for mapping: the model will be run on these three cities.

The selected cities are:Almada (Portugal),Antwerp (Belgium) and Berlin (Germany)

The VITO Model:

  • employs large-scale meteorological fields to calculate hourly fields of relevant meteorological quantities including temperature and humidity, at a resolution of the order of hundreds of meters or better
  • ingests generic terrain data sets (such as land cover, vegetation index, degree of soil sealing)
  • can be implemented on any urban area in Europe
  • will be run for the selected cities and retrospective periods, and the simulated meteorological fields will be validated using in-situ measurement 

End-user cities

  • City of Almada: full profile and characteristics and contact names [>>]

  • City of Antwerp: full profile and characteristics and contact names [>>]

  • City of Berlin: full profile and characteristics and contact names [>>]