Research on the Urban Heat Island effect in Lyon, France

By Adeline Hadjiosif

I was lucky (or unlucky?) enough to be in Lyon, France, doing climate research during the warmest week ever recorded in June, in the country.

I was working with Université Jean Moulin (Lyon III) on Urban Heat Island research.  I was invited after networking with them at the annual conference of the American Association of Geographers in New Orleans (USA), where I was presenting similar research for the Science Museum of Virginia.  Since then, I’ve been part of their research team and have been a co-author of one article, published in January 2019.

Urban Heat Island is the phenomenon of cities and urban environments experiencing higher temperatures and different weather conditions than more rural areas, due to traffic, infrastructure and dense high-rise building, impermeable surfaces and other human activities.

Our research, aimed to:

  • Firstly, identify the most accurate instruments for mobile measurement of various factors such as temperature, humidity, Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM2.5, PM5, PM10) around the City, and
  • Secondly, quantify the temperature profile of the City of Lyon, which would subsequently aid the identification of vulnerable populations around in the City, and hopefully influence public decision-making for the appropriate protection and adaptation measures. 

During my stay in Lyon, we took measurements around the city, testing/comparing several instruments. Below are some rough findings of our 28km cycle around Lyon, on a canicule (extreme heat) day. Our instruments recorded temperatures as high as 39.9°C (at 5pm!).  We were lucky to obtain measurements on an extreme heat day, as such data is rarest to find, and it aids our understanding of the differences between temperature in a normal vs extreme heat conditions.

We used electric bikes to carry out temperature measurements. You can see the recording devices in the basket.
Findings of our 28km cycle around Lyon, on a canicule (extreme heat) day. Areas of shade and higher elevation exhibited lower temperatures. Our instruments recorded temperatures as high as 39.9°C (at 5pm!).

We also installed one of our devices at Meteo France.  The detector will record temperature, humidity, NOx and PM data for the rest of the summer, giving us insights regarding its accuracy and reliability.

This was the first time I visited Lyon and carried out field work and analysis with the researchers in person.  I was quite anxious before meeting them, especially as I hadn’t had the experience of field-work in extreme heat conditions by then, and wanted to make a good impression.  Luckily, everything went very well! I met amazing professionals of my field and got inspired for my Master’s thesis as well as my future career.  Not only that, but I also got the chance to experience Lyon as well as a small dose of the French lifestyle.

If it hadn’t been for the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund, I wouldn’t had the chance to visit Lyon, work alongside renowned professional and gain a first-hand experience in applied research.  Thank you to the Go Aboad team and the University of Edinburgh!

Categories: Europe, France, Go Abroad Fund

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