The UK’s National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO) is collaborating with Ordnance Survey (OS) to use satellite data to monitor and map heat at locations where rising temperatures present the greatest risk.
Backed by the UK Space Agency, the project aims to provide meaningful insights to help policymakers manage impacts from climate change in hot spots across the UK and further afield.
Dr Darren Ghent, NCEO leader and research fellow for land surface temperature, said, “Satellite observations of land surface temperatures and their change are increasingly recognized as being able to provide unique and detailed knowledge to better facilitate the understanding of climate change and thus to inform planning and ‘climate-adaptive’ policies to deal with extreme events such as heatwaves.”
A recent report by OS showed that heat-related disasters have high economic costs, estimated to be between £323m (US$396m) to £9.9bn (US$12bn) per year by the 2050s. The effects of climate change are not just the rise in global temperatures but also the extreme weather events that occur, such as droughts, floods and heatwaves.
Mark Tabor, principal production consultant at OS, said, “On its own, Earth observation has no context but add a map and suddenly it has the context to shape change, as evidenced by the UK Space Agency project. Making the combined data set easily accessible with our technical expertise can lead to informed decisions and help protect the most vulnerable communities, infrastructure and environments, and enable the success of climate solutions to be monitored and best practice shared.”
Science and data into policy change
The Earth observation data will use land surface temperature data from thermal infrared sensors in space. This will reveal locations that may show greater risk to human health and enable better planning and ‘climate-adaptive’ policies to deal with extreme weather events.
Donna Lyndsay, innovation lead at OS, said, “Geospatial data is already supporting how we respond to climate change and the drive toward net zero. By working collaboratively with the UK Space Agency and leading scientists, OS is using its mapping capabilities and trusted data to identify areas at greatest risk from global warming.
“Sifting through data can be a minefield and so it’s our mission to empower public bodies to meet their climate action plans with meaningful insights and evidence, ensuring high-quality scientific data is in the hands of the right people. With heat events becoming more regular and more intense around the globe, the demand for Earth observation and geospatial data is likely to grow in 2023 as both data sets are vital to reducing the effects of climate change.”
Data from the project will deliver insight so that governments will be able to protect vulnerable communities by identifying cool spaces or areas where safe zones are needed, optimize tree planting and explore how planning could mitigate risk and ensure any land management measures being proposed will be resilient to future change, from urban and rural planning to protecting people, livestock and crops.
In cities, urban heat islands occur where the land surface is densely covered with roads, pavement, buildings and other surfaces that absorb and retain heat. This effect increases energy costs, air pollution and heat-related illnesses and fatalities. Using geospatial data, planners will be able to identify buildings that require adaptation, such as retrofitting green or cool roofs, and greenspaces that could be used for heat pumps and as low-carbon heat sources to help the UK achieve its climate targets.