Urban heat mapping

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Urban heat mapping has been undertaken to identify where heat builds up across our city during hot weather. It also investigated where hotspots and heat islands overlap with vulnerable members of the community, or where higher localised temperatures may affect the way open space and the public realm is utilised.

What is an urban heat island?

The urban environment is characterised by built structures, activities and materials which have replaced natural surfaces. Artificial surfaces such as roads, footpaths and buildings store and accumulate heat which can affect temperatures at the local scale. These surfaces are also impervious, meaning less moisture is available to assist with cooling. This, in turn, leads to an increase in the minimum and maximum temperatures of a city compared with surrounding or less developed areas and is known as the 'urban heat island' effect.

For the purposes of this project, heat islands were defined as a 125m2 area where the temperature measured at least 2°C higher than average temperatures for the study area. Hot spots were 2m2 areas where the temperature measured at least 2°C higher than average temperatures for the study area, which allowed the impacts of specific land uses to be identified.


Why undertake heat mapping?

Urban heat mapping was undertaken to gain a better understanding of how materials, urban design, different land uses and even housing density can impact or improve the liveability of public areas and private homes during our often long, dry and hot summer periods. Due to a changing climate, the Western Adelaide region is already experiencing longer, hotter and more frequent heatwaves, which have the potential to impact the health and well-being of our community, as well as councils’ ability to deliver key services. The future urban form will also have higher densities, smaller backyards and less opportunity for trees or other green infrastructure to assist with cooling. 

The project provides a 'snapshot' of surface temperatures of the study area.

A flyover was undertaken on February 9 2017 during the day (11am - 4pm), and again at night (11pm - 3am) to investigate how heat continues to radiate from different built materials and surface areas into the evening. Data was collected using a specialist remote sensing aircraft across 110 suburbs covering three western region council areas (including West Torrens). 

Results have been used to inform decision-making such as urban greening and prioritising tree planting, Water Sensitive Urban Design and urban design projects. Heatwaves and higher temperatures experienced in summer impact community health, which often results in increased mortality and medical needs. In particular, higher temperatures impact members of the community who have pre-existing conditions relating to heart, renal and mental health. 


Key findings for West Torrens

Key findings for West Torrens:

  • Our hottest suburbs were Ashford, Keswick, Kurralta Park, Mile End South and Thebarton.
  • 5.6 per cent of West Torrens residents live within a daytime heat island, which was the lowest proportion compared with Charles Sturt (20.1 per cent) and Port Adelaide Enfield (17.2 per cent).
  • Heavily tree lined streets were at least 8°C cooler than adjacent streets where little or no street trees were present.
  • Artificial turf measured 8.1°C warmer than the average surface temperature for across the region
  • Rubber soft fall (commonly used in playgrounds) had a surface temperature of 52°C.

View heat maps for metropolitan Adelaide