URBANFLUXES: URBan Anthropogenic heat FLUX from Earth observation Satellites

The anthropogenic heat flux (QF) is the heat flux resulting from human activities such as traffic, heating and cooling of buildings, industrial processes and the metabolic heat release by people. Both urban planning and Earth system science communities need spatially disaggregated QF data, at local (neighbourhood, or 100 m x 100 m) and city scales. URBANFLUXES attempts to combine in-situ fluxes measurements with Earth Observation remote sensing data to produce a better estimation of QF.

The main goal of the project is mitigation: how to avoid QF becoming too high resulting in rising temperatures in urban areas. This is especially relevant in the light of climate change with more heat waves likely to occur in the future.

There will be three case studies cities in Europe; London (UK), Basel (Switzerland) and Heraklion (Greece). These cities differ in spatial characteristics, climate zones, population density and  yearly timing of the  QF maximum.

In this project, Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) is responsible for setting up the Communities of Practice (CoPs). Through the CoPs, users will be consulted on their needs related to the use of QF data and interviews will be organized in each city to capture and analyse the urban planning related requirements.


By using remote sensing data, QF can be measured in a less expensive and quick way. Having more insight into QF and involving stakeholders creates awareness and therefore more support for mitigation (e.g. insulation of houses) and adaptation (more trees) actions. The results can lead to a reduced winter and/or summer peak of heat emissions and also to cooler urban design.

Further application possibilities?

The case study results can be further upscaled to other cities in Europe. Knowing what the anthropogenic heat flux patterns are in time and space can be an incentive for adjusting/creating policy dealing with heat in urban areas. For example, creating a mitigation and adaptation policy and implementing measures might lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions as well as reduced natural and anthropogenic heat.