New planning tool for climate adaptation in cities

A changing climate places great pressure on society, and creates many new challenges. To make city planning easier, a planning tool has been developed to support climate adaptation of cities and regions in Europe.

The European research project SUDPLAN, co-ordinated by SMHI, has developed a planning tool for climate adaptation of European cities and regions for intensive precipitation, hydrological conditions and the air environment.

“Already today we are beginning to notice climate-related problems in cities, such as flooding. As the climate changes even more, these difficulties will increase. This is why a tool is needed to facilitate planning ahead of decisions regarding investments in infrastructure, for instance, and to ensure that projects are adapted to the altered conditions we will be facing in the future,” says Lars Gidhagen, researcher in air quality at SMHI and co-ordinator of SUDPLAN.

Climate scenarios challenge infrastructures

The planning tool SUDPLAN makes information available for the period 1961-2100, from a number of climate scenarios scaled down across Europe, complete with hydrological simulations and results from an air pollution model.

“An altered climate means that cities will be exposed to new strains such as higher temperatures, more torrential rain and altered air pollution levels which affect our health. By taking into account the climate impact when planning development in relation to waterways, dimensioning surface water networks and planning traffic routes, we can already to some extent plan for good health, comfort, safety and quality of life,” Gidhagen explains.

Planning and visualisation

Using the tool, city planners anywhere in Europe can themselves generate more detailed future information by entering local precipitation data, flow data from watercourses or emissions of air pollutants. The projections can use several different climate scenarios to run the same future simulation. Similarities and differences in the various scenario results produce information about the uncertainty in the conditions we can expect to face in the future. The planning tool also contains functionality for advanced visualisation, and for linking downscaled data to users’ own local models.

Four pilot cities

Within the framework of the project, four cities have shown the benefit of the planning tool by looking into the impact that climate change could have for them:

– Stockholm, Sweden and Prague, Czech Republic have examined what significance climate change will have for air quality in 2030, compared to the effect of anticipated emission changes in Europe and locally in each city. They have also compared the consequences on exposure levels for air pollutants in 2030, both if the Förbifart Stockholm road bypass goes ahead and if it does not.

– Wuppertal, Germany has looked at how short-term precipitation will change from the present day up to 2050, and how the drainage system can cope with drainage. Here the SUDPLAN tool is integrated with a local run-off model so that the user can, for instance, test how raised pavements and defence walls protect against the flooding of cellars and sensitive infrastructure.

– Linz, Austria has used SUDPLAN to optimise the operation of treatment plants, thereby preventing too much wastewater from brimming over during intensive precipitation, both today and in the future.

About the project

The SUDPLAN project is part of the EU Seventh Framework Programme for research and development, FP7. SMHI has co-ordinated the project and is now looking into interest for a future use of the tool and its services in Europe, Africa and South America.

Last updated 19 December 2012
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“Already today we are beginning to notice climate-related problems in cities, such as flooding,” says Lars Gidhagen, researcher at SMHI.

RESEARCH