First map of the UK’s literal ‘hot spots’ is created using satellite imagery and could help emergency responders save lives by targeting the warmest areas during summer heatwaves
- Earth observation company 4EI used satellites to create its map of ‘at risk’ areas
- The data from hot spots during past summers will help Category 1 responders
- It shows areas where high temps form potentially dangerous ‘urban heat islands’
A satellite data company has created the first map of the UK’s warmest areas in preparation for what could be one of the hottest summers on record.
The ‘Heat Hazard Postcode’ from Bristol-based company 4 Earth Intelligence (4EI) provides a map of ‘at risk’ areas to help manage the effects of extreme weather.
Using satellite imagery and algorithms, the free map identifies literal ‘hot spots’ within urban areas where temperatures get higher.
The map will help national organisations coordinate emergency responses during the summer, which could be particularly fatal for the elderly.
The Met Office has already predicted that 2020 will be one of hottest years on record and heatwaves this summer could kill more than 1,000 people.
Heat map of North England. A satellite data company has created the first map of the UK’s literal hot spots showing its warmest areas – to help save lives during heatwaves
The coronavirus could also play a big role in the fatal effects of a heatwave this summer, the company suggests, by stretching emergency resources.
‘Even during normal conditions extreme weather events can result in significantly higher numbers of deaths,’ said 4EI CTO and co-founder Richard Flemmings.
‘This is especially amongst people over 65 and those with underlying health conditions – the same group that are more at risk of COVID-19 and are being asked to self-isolate.
The firm – 4 Earth Intelligence (4EI) – used satellite imagery, captured over the 2017-2019 summers, and automated algorithms to identify warmer urban areas
‘By providing Category 1 responders with intelligence derived from past events we hope that this will help plan for and mitigate against the worst scenario.
‘This information can be used to target vulnerable households with information about coping strategies and signpost supporting organisations or emergency responders.’
4EI used satellite imagery, captured over the 2017-2019 summers, and automated algorithms to identify warmer urban areas.
The higher temperatures pose greater heath risks to residents so 4EI will use the data to help them cope amid forecasted heatwaves and the coronavirus pandemic
Further processing allowed the data to be standardised across different locations and then was statistically analysed to show the location of heat anomalies throughout Britain.
Heat anomalies were then split into five colour-coded categories, demonstrating the tendency of different locations to reach higher temperatures.
The map is not constantly updated, but provides a snapshot of temperatures during our most recent summers as predictors.
Specifically, the historic data identifies hot spots within urban areas where temperatures are generally higher, forming what is called an ‘urban heat island’, or UHI.
An estimated 900 people died from 2019 heatwaves, which the company fears could rise in 2020
A UHI is a metropolitan area that is warmer than the surrounding areas, created by human activity – in particular vehicles and buildings – or the higher heat absorption capacity of pavements and roads compared to rural surfaces.
The UHI also impacts air and water quality and demands for energy which then effects carbon neutral targets and public health.
Higher temperatures pose greater heath risks to residents so 4EI will use the data to help them cope amid forecasted heatwaves.
Higher daytime temperatures, lower nighttime cooling and urban air pollution can cause general discomfort, respiratory difficulties, heat cramps and exhaustion, which can lead to non-fatal heat stroke and heat-related death.
The map shows heat hazards as low, medium or high, which will help direct emergency responses and prioritise certain areas
In 2019, 900 people in England died from heatwaves, according to analysis from Public Health England, or 3,400 people over the last four years.
Department of Health-funded research suggested that more than 7,000 people could die every year from the effects of urban heat waves by the 2050s.
As well as satellite imagery, 4EI said the Heat Hazard data will also be be supplied as CSV files for use in spreadsheets.
The service will be available for use until the end of September 2020.
Summer 2019 was hottest on record for Northern Hemisphere
Summer 2019 was hottest on record for Northern Hemisphere, according to the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The heat impacted Arctic sea ice coverage, shrinking it to the second smallest for the month on record.
The Northern Hemisphere summer (June through August) record high temperature also ties with the same period in 2016.
The following are some of the specific causes.
WHAT CAUSED THE HEATWAVE?
The heatwave was triggered by the build-up of high pressures over Europe over, leading to the northward movement of warm air from Europe over the UK.
‘At this time of year southerly winds will always lead to above average temperatures,’ said University of Reading meteorologist Peter Inness.
‘Air from continental Europe, the Mediterranean and even North Africa is brought over the UK.’
‘The eastward passage of weather fronts and low pressures from the North Atlantic are currently being blocked by the high pressure over Europe,’ added University of Reading climate scientist Len Shaffrey.
WAS IT RELATED TO THE US HEATWAVE?
The US’s warm weather in 2019 was caused by a high-pressure dome building up over much of the country, trapping the summer heat.
This had wider-reaching effects.
‘Heatwave conditions in the U.S Midwest and the East coast have strengthened the jet stream,’ said environmental scientist Kate Sambrook of the University of Leeds.
‘The resulting thunderstorms occurring on the continent have helped the jet stream to meander and move to the north of the UK.’
‘As a result of this shift, hot air has been drawn up from Europe causing the high temperatures we are experiencing this week.’
The US’s warm weather last summer was caused by a high-pressure dome building up over much of the country, trapping the summer heat
IS CLIMATE CHANGE CAUSING HEATWAVES?
‘The fact that so many recent years have had very high summer temperatures both globally and across Europe is very much in line with what we expect from man-made global warming,’ said Dr Inness.
‘Changes in the intensity and likelihood of extreme weather is how climate change manifests,’ said environmental scientist Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford.
‘That doesn’t mean every extreme event is more intense because of it, but a lot are. For example, every heatwave occurring in Europe today is made more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change.’
However, local factors also play a role, with each extreme weather event being influenced by the location, season, intensity and duration.
The present heatwave is not the only notable indicator of climate change, experts note, with ongoing droughts — such as those being experienced in many parts of Germany — also being in line with scientific predictions.
Research into the 2003 European heatwave suggested at the time that human activity had more than doubled the risk of such warm summers — and that annual heatwaves like we are experiencing now could become commonplace by around the middle of the century.
‘It has been estimated that about 35,000 people died as a result of the European heatwave in 2003, so this is not a trivial issue,’ said Dr Inness.
‘With further climate change there could be a 50% chance of having hot summers in the future,’ agreed Dr Finney.
‘That’s similar to saying that a normal summer in future will be as hot as our hottest summers to date,’ he added.