Microscale urban climate analysis

Microscale urban climate analysis
© Shutterstock / Andrey_Popov / Fraunhofer IBP
Wind flow field on pedestrian level calculated with PALM-4U, Ernst-Reuter-Platz, Berlin.

Already today, a large part of the world’s population lives in towns and cities - a trend that will intensify in the future. Cities are not only affected by climate change but also contribute towards it. Because their development processes are very much long term, steps must already be taken now to cope with the effects of future changes in the climate. It is therefore essential that sustainable and climate-friendly urban development take urban climate concerns into account, even if this often causes conflicts in objectives with other aspects of urban planning. When it comes to making future planning decisions in cities, highly efficient simulation models are becoming an increasingly important tool that can be used to plan measures to safeguard and improve the urban climate and control air pollution.

Our experts carry out these simulation-based studies with the urban climate model PALM-4U. They are actively involved in its development and implementation in the sub-project “ProPolis” forming part of the BMBF funded project “Urban Climate under Change”. PALM-4U is a turbulence-resolving large-eddy simulation model that can depict relevant microclimatic processes in cities. The simulation resolves both buildings and vegetation and allows investigations ranging from small individual spaces through districts right up to whole cities like Berlin. Coupled with mesoscale climate models such as WRF, past, present, and future meteorological boundary conditions can be included in the urban climate simulation.

Typical fields of application for high-resolution microscale urban climate simulation:

  • Assessing urban heat islands and thermal comfort outdoors and in buildings
  • Analyzing cold air drainage and urban airflow paths
  • Analyzing wind currents to evaluate wind comfort and storm hazards
  • Determining the spread of pollutants from traffic, domestic heating, or disasters such as major fires
  • Analyzing the impact of climate change on urban structures

In addition to evaluating the status quo or different planning variants, the simulations can be used for interdisciplinary analyses and to develop measures to safeguard and improve the urban climate or air pollution control. The simulation enables the impact of the measures and planning variants to be quantified, thus directly aiding planning and decision-making processes.

An important focus of our activities lies on transferring knowledge to practical applications. We are researching into ways to make complex simulation models available to users such as local authorities, surveyors or planning offices and to integrate them into their planning and development processes. To this end, we are developing application-based simulation environments as well as software interfaces and train users to enhance capacity.

Within the scope of decision-making and public participation processes, our experts are also searching for new ways to communicate the importance of urban climate aspects in an accessible manner. With this in mind, we also test and develop innovative augmented and mixed reality technologies.

We offer advice and conduct research & development work in the following areas:

  • Simulation studies on urban climate issues
  • Assessment of the impact of climate change, development of local adaptation measures and quantification of the resulting effects
  • Support and advice on planning and decision-making processes
  • Development and provision of individual simulation models, software, and user interfaces
  • Innovative communication and planning tools for urban development and public participation processes
  • Knowledge transfer and training for users from practice