Urban climates and global climate change
Cleugh, H. and Grimmond, S. (2011) Urban climates and global climate change. In: Henderson-Sellers, A. and McGuffie, K. (eds.) The future of the world's climate. 2nd edition. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 47-76. ISBN 9781283347952
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386917-3.00003-8
Cities and global climate change are closely linked: cities are where the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions take place through the consumption of fossil fuels; they are where an increasing proportion of the world’s people live; and they also generate their own climate – commonly characterized by the urban heat island. In this way, understanding the way cities affect the cycling of energy, water, and carbon to create an urban climate is a key element of climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, especially in the context of rising global temperatures and deteriorating air quality in many cities. As climate models resolve finer spatial-scales, they will need to represent those areas in which more than 50% of the world’s population already live to provide climate projections that are of greater use to planning and decision-making. Finally, many of the processes that are instrumental in determining urban climate are the same factors leading to global anthropogenic climate change, namely regional-scale land-use changes; increased energy use; and increased emissions of climatically-relevant atmospheric constituents. Cities are therefore both a case study for understanding, and an agent in mitigating, anthropogenic climate change. This chapter reviews and summarizes the current state of understanding of the physical basis of urban climates, as well as our ability to represent these in models. We argue that addressing the challenges of managing urban environments in a changing climate requires understanding the energy, water, and carbon balances for an urban landscape and, importantly, their interactions and feedbacks, together with their links to human behaviour and controls. We conclude with some suggestions for where further research is needed.