Assessing the impact of the urban landscape on heat wave episodes: a case study of the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona.

Gara Villalba, Sergi Ventura, Joan Gilabert, Alberto Martilli, Alba Badia

Research output: Other contribution


Currently, around 54% of the world's population is living in urban areas and this number is projected to increase by 66% by 2050. In the past years, cities have been experiencing heat wave episodes that affect the population. As the modern urban landscape is continually evolving, with green spaces and parks becoming a more integral component and with suburbs expanding outward from city centres into previously rural, agricultural, and natural areas, we need tools to learn how to best implement planning strategies that minimize heat waves. In this study we use the Weather and Research Forecasting model (WRF) with a multi-layer layer scheme, the Building Effect Parameterization (BEP) coupled with the Building Energy Model (BEP+BEM, Salamanca and Martilli, 2010) to take into account the energy consumption of buildings and anthropogenic heat generated by air conditioning systems. The urban canopy scheme takes into account city morphology (e.g. building and street canyon geometry) and surface characteristics (e.g. albedo, heat capacity, emissivity, urban/vegetation fraction). The Community Land Surface Model (CLM) is used in WRF that uses 16 different plant functional types (PFTs) as the basis for land-use differentiation. Furthermore, we use the Local Climate Zones (LCZ) classification which has 11 urban land use categories with specific thermal, radiative and geometric parameters of the buildings and ground to compute the heat and momentum fluxes in the urban areas. The objective is to validate the model and establish relationships between urban morphology and land use with temperature, so that the model can be used to simulate land use scenarios to investigate the effectiveness of different mitigation strategies to lower urban temperatures during the summer months.

We test the methods with the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona (AMB) as a case study. The AMB is representative of the Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers. With a heterogeneous urban landscape, the AMB covers 636 km2 (34% built, 23% agricultural, and 31% vegetation) and has more than five million habitants. We simulate the heat wave that occurred in August 2018, during which temperatures stayed between 30 and 40ºC for five consecutive days and compare results with observed data from five different weather stations. We then simulate a potential scenario changing land surface from built to vegetation, in accordance with Barcelona´s strategic climate plan, and the potential impact the land use change has on reducing heat wave episodes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2020

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