Urban Updates

Cities need detailed models to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, says atmospheric science professor Ken Davis.

red green and yellow illustration of urban landscape on black background by Richard Mia

“The inequity created by climate change that exists nation to nation also impacts cities; within cities, different neighborhoods are impacted in different ways. If a more vulnerable community experiences unexpected changes, the damage is potentially greater.

“Fortunately, there is an increasing awareness of these inequities and that’s driving a change to make climate predictions useful for people in cities. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Urban Integrated Field Program, we’re creating weather and climate modeling systems that can actually describe the variables that matter to people living in cities at the scale of that city. If cities wish to adapt to or mitigate effects of climate change, if they want to adapt to sea level rise or increased precipitation intensity, they need to have numeral predictions that can accurately represent how their actions will influence their environment and better mitigation and adaptation strategies.

“This project is unique because it brings together different teams: There’s a community engagement and decision science team to help with urban planning. We have a group understanding how buildings impact climate and can be adapted to live with flooding and air quality issues. A health sciences team is assessing the health costs of climate change, there’s an ecosystems component—there’s a lot of vegetation in a city that impacts urban climate and water quantity and quality—and an atmospheric dynamics and air quality group to assess pollution environment.

“We hope that our modeling systems will get down to a resolution where we can tell, neighborhood by neighborhood, what might be happening.”