Helping Sydney prepare for hotter summers

Monday, 11 December, 2023

Helping Sydney prepare for hotter summers

This summer, the City of Sydney and Western Sydney University will be mapping air temperatures across the city while investigating the thermal performance of assets like trees and parks.

Their study involves strategically positioning 200 bespoke temperature gauges to accurately measure local heat island effects and help prepare the community for hotter summers. This will be the first time a local government area in Sydney’s east has been mapped in this way.

“By 2050, Sydney is predicted by the CSIRO to have a climate more like Grafton in northern NSW,” said Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore. “Our climate is trending warmer and the weather is becoming more extreme, so we must prepare and adapt.

“This important study will identify microclimates and help us understand where we can concentrate the most appropriate heat adaptation actions. It’ll also help us understand what is working already and inform the development of more cooling strategies to help our communities mitigate the worst impacts of rising temperatures,” Moore said.

The air temperature loggers used in the study are shielded from direct solar radiation inside reusable and passively ventilated white aluminium cans. Deployed mainly in trees, they will record temperatures every 10 minutes, providing more than 3 million data points throughout the study, which runs until March 2024.

Air temperature will be measured by 150 loggers. 50 other loggers will monitor air temperature alongside relative humidity in order to accurately gauge the so-called ‘feels like’ temperature. The loggers will be positioned in areas with varying levels of canopy cover, as well as near hard infrastructure like roads and buildings.

Lead researcher Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, from the Urban Transformations Research Centre at Western Sydney University, has years of experience studying the impacts of summer heat in Sydney’s west.

“It is absolutely necessary to begin benchmarking the impacts of heat in the eastern part of our great city,” Pfautsch said.

“Without a refined understanding of the urban microclimate, its hotspots and cool zones, workers and local populations are left defenceless when extreme heat strikes. The question is not if the city centre will ever see 45°C, but rather how well the city is prepared to care for its people when the mercury hits new records.”

The City of Sydney has set ambitious goals for its area to be net zero by 2035. It also aims to increase tree canopy cover to 27% and green cover to 40% by 2050.

The study’s findings are expected to be completed in September 2024.

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