From Data to Action: Tackling Urban Heat Islands in Melbourne with Satellite Remote Sensing

June 29, 2023


Charlie Siggs

From Data to Action: Tackling Urban Heat Islands in Melbourne with Satellite Remote Sensing

Across the intricate fabric of the urban landscapes that stretch across our world, a phenomenon known as the ‘urban heat island effect’ quietly shapes the environments we inhabit. As populations surge and big cities transform into sprawling mega-cities, the impact of this heat phenomenon becomes increasingly pronounced:  By 2050, approximately 20 percent of the world's most populous cities could experience a temperature increase of over 4°C, while about 25 percent could see a rise of over 7°C by 2100. As a consequence, the average city may suffer economic losses of around 1.4-1.7 percent of its GDP by 2050 and 2.3-5.6 percent by 2100 due to heat-related impacts. The most severely affected cities could face a staggering 10.9 percent loss of GDP attributable to heat by the end of the century.

However, understanding and addressing urban heat islands go beyond the spatial arrangements and architecture of our cities; it requires a holistic exploration that encompasses both the scientific data and human elements, the sociopolitical climate, and our collective societal goals.

In this article, we delve into the realm of constellr satellite remote sensing and its crucial role in unravelling the complexities of urban heat islands. While examining the interplay of human activities and urban design, we explore how overpopulation contributes to the transformation of cities into megacities, exacerbating the urban heat island effect. By analysing the spatial arrangements and architectural features that amplify heat retention, we gain insights into the environmental challenges we face.

Satellite remote sensing acts as an invaluable tool in exploring this area, providing a vantage point from which to observe and analyse urban heat islands. By capturing thermal infrared data from orbit, we gain a comprehensive understanding of heat patterns, spatial variations, and the underlying dynamics that contribute to the formation and persistence of urban heat islands.

Use case Climasens x constellr: The power of LST data  

On that note, let's have a closer at Melbourne, Australia and how the city combats the impacts of climate change, rising temperatures, reduced rainfall, and more frequent and intense bushfires becoming stark realities for the city. Projections indicate that by 2050, Melbourne will face an average of 16 heat events per year. Despite the daunting challenges, the City of Melbourne is effectively utilising land surface temperature technology to identify, anticipate, and safeguard its community against heat events.  

Climasens, a leading Melbourne-based climate intelligence start-up is at the forefront of developing innovative products aimed at identifying and evaluating climate risks. Their platform efficiently gathers, examines, and integrates reliable climate data from diverse sources including weather stations, climate models and lastly, satellite imagery.

constellr and Climasens are partnering to advance the monitoring of Urban Heat Islands. constellr is providing Climasens with high resolution and temperature accuracy Land Surface Temperature data, which Climasens incorporate into their state-of-the-art Urban Heat Island Risk Index.  

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Summer time in Melbourne, Australia

Insights of real time data: vulnerable communities

Monitoring land surface temperature in real-time provides a valuable tool for identifying heat-vulnerable populations and areas in Melbourne. By integrating live weather and climate data, we can gain crucial insights into heat exposure and social vulnerability. This information empowers decision-makers to effectively allocate resources and implement interventions in areas where they are most needed. By prioritising these actions, vulnerable communities can receive the necessary protection and support during heatwaves and extreme heat events, ultimately enhancing their resilience and well-being.

Evidence-based decision making for urban development and policies  

Accurate monitoring of land surface temperature serves as a crucial cornerstone for evidence-based decision-making in urban planning and climate resilience efforts. The data acquired through this monitoring process plays a vital role in identifying areas where urban heat islands (UHIs) are particularly pronounced, allowing authorities and policymakers to implement targeted mitigation strategies. With a clear understanding of the spatial distribution of UHIs, decision-makers can introduce appropriate measures such as expanding green spaces, optimizing building materials, and enhancing cool roof programs. These initiatives effectively combat the urban heat effect, fostering a more comfortable and liveable urban environment while bolstering overall climate resilience. By embracing land surface temperature monitoring, Melbourne can forge a path towards a more resilient and sustainable future.

See more, Act Faster:

LST with high frequency, resolution and accuracy has not been available to enable a precise understanding of the thermal dynamics of Urban Heat Islands, until now.  constellr is building a constellation of satellites that will deliver LST data on a daily basis, at high resolution and with unrivalled accuracy of temperature.  We are already helping partners like Climasens to build datasets on urban heat islands through our harmonized LST product, celestr.  Combining this with the data of our satellite constellation will empower Urban Heat Officers and city managers to make decisions based on reliable data. As a leading provider of space-based temperature, water and carbon insights, constellr's mission is to advance understanding of the planet's ecosystems, enabling a more equitable and sustainable future governance of global resources. We believe in data-driven decision making in agriculture, the environment and industries for a sustainable future.

For a quick exchange on our products and services feel free to contact Charlie Siggs or learn more at constellr.com