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Urban climate research at the Nansen Center: A review and perspectives

Igor Esau
Seminar Date: 
26. October 2021 - 14:15 - 14:45
Lecture room, Ground Floor, NERSC

Global climate change increasingly affects the Earth’s physical environment, biosphere and noosphere. The later has emerged in the present Anthropocene epoque as the sphere of human consciousness and reason that includes human socio-economic activities and cultural actions. The anthropogenic warming is a product of and a threat to the noosphere. Another product of the noosphere are our cities where humans consciousness create a distinct anthropic environment, which is both insolating and impacting the planetary processes. The urbanized areas occupy as little as 2.5% of the earth’s land surface, but comprise as much as 60% of the human population and consume not less as 75% of generated energy. These numbers assign a global scale of the urban impact – any climate change concerning the urban areas would be of the major significance for the entire humanity and not least for its socio-political organization. And the global warming change is exacerbated in the cities as well as its plagues.

The global challenges frame urban climate programmes of the United Nations (the sustainable development goals 11, 12, 13 and the large degree 7), the World Meteorological Organization, and the national Environmental Protection Agencies. The urban climate research at the Nansen Center benefits from this international efforts but focus on cities in a boreal climate areas of northern high latitudes. Being small and remote, the northern cities are overlooked in international research programmes despite their major contribution to the fossil fuel (up to 25%) and other mineral supply chains. Besides, the northern cities are located in the areas of accelerated and amplified climate change where the gains and losses due to global warming are filled already today. Many northern cities have developed urban climates analogues to those 300-600 km to the south of their respective locations. Through this local climate impact, we have a unique chance to observe and to study in details processes and effects that accompany the global warming by the end of 21st century.

A row of urban climate and air quality projects at the Nansen Center aims to buildup comprehensive and holistic understanding of socio-environmental interactions in the boreal cities. Our focus area includes Nordic countries, Russia, Alaska and Canada with an interest to the cold climate areas in China and elsewhere. We seek for better understanding, monitoring and modeling of local physical processes modified by human social, cultural and economic activity. But not least, we look at global implications of the climate change in those cities. The Nansen Center efforts along this line are reenforced by strategic connections with international groups such as PEEX, WMO-GURME, urban IPCC and others.

The key perspectives of the urban climate research at Nansen Center are linked to further development of the high-resolution integrated assessment approach, which is already adopted by the WMO strategy. It includes development and integration of turbulence-resolving urban-scale modeling and high-resolution remote sensing, utilization of citizen observations and elements of smart city technologies. In this setup, studies of influential urban environmental quality scenarios might play a role of a locomotive. Being unable to compete for operational services, we prefer to focus on specific research questions that would help to optimize environmental management in a smart city. We also strive to study fundamental aspects of socio-environmental interactions under climate change, such as acclimation of norther ecosystems, climate impact of human outdoor activity and health.