Energy balance measurements in the Namib desert. Started August 1, 2009.
NAmibia FOg Life Cycle Analysis - Researching the dynamics and effects of fog in the Namib
URBANFLUXES stands for "URBan ANthrpogenic heat FLUX from Earth observation Satellites" and is a Horizon 2020 funded space research project, coordinated by the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece).
Exploiting earth observation in sustainable urban planning & management
Contribution of the University of Basel towards the "Meteorological measurements in the Barringer Meteor Crater" project for the examination of downslope windstorm-type flows.
Urban climate study of Bucharest, Romania.
BRIDGE is a joint effort of 14 European Organizations aiming at incorporating sustainability aspects in urban planning processes, accounting for some well recognised relations between urban metabolism and urban structure. The local measurement program consist of an additional street canyon tower and an additional flux site.
The Hyper-Swiss-Net project aims at developing and supporting the scientific expertise and infrastructure in Switzerland for the exploitation of imaging spectrometry technology for different Earth observation applications
Investigation of birch pollen production and emission by combining experimental and modeling work in order to quantify the released pollen in relation to turbulence characteristics and micrometeorological parameters around a pollen source.
Former projects
A list of former projects of the MCR Unibas

Sentinel 2A launched! View the launch video or the first images


Acronym and Official Homepage

URBan ANthrpogenic heat FLUX from Earth observation Satellites

Project description

Cities are much warmer than their surroundings. Urban structures absorb and trap more solar and thermal radiation than soils or vegetation and that causes an increase in the urban temperature. Moreover, many human activities add heat to the urban climate. The heating and the cooling of buildings, the traffic, various industrial activities and our own human metabolism release energy in the form of heat, called anthropogenic heat. Because of these effects the rate of warming in cities is higher than the average global warming, a phenomenon known as the Urban Heat Island (UHI). Especially during heat waves, which are expected to occur more often, the UHI plus the heat wave can create an increase in energy consumption, a decrease in human comfort and significant human mortality.

URBANFLUXES investigates the cities’ warming by breaking down the urban energy budget and targeting the anthropogenic heat flux. For this research we use imagery from Earth Observation satellites combined with conventional meteorological measurements at street level. The resulted satellite-based approach is expected to be easily transferable to any city. With this knowledge, measures to reduce urban heat can be monitored and tested.


URBANFLUXES is a Horizon 2020 funded space research project, coordinated by the Foundation for Research and Technology Hellas (Greece). The consortium consists of leading European organizations in Earth Observation and Urban Climatology: the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft – und Raumfahrt (Germany), the Centre d’Etude Spatiale de la Biosphère, Universite (France), the University of Basel (Switzerland), the University of Reading (United Kingdom), the University of Basel (Switzerland), the Göteborgs Universitet (Sweden); experts on Science Communication Stichting Dienst Landbouwkundig Onderzoek (The Netherlands); and the industry, a spin-off company GEO-K s.r.l. (Italy).

The urban surface energy budget is defined as Q* + QF = QH + QE + ΔQS+ ΔQA + S


The concept of URBANFLUXES introduces novel ideas on how anthropogenic heat emissions can be observed from space, that’s why it was selected for funding under the first H2020 Space Call and more specifically under the topic H2020-EO-1-2014 “New ideas for Earth-relevant space applications”. URBANFLUXES will exploit the Copernicus Sentinels observations, which are expected to provide improved data quality, coverage and revisit times, increasing the value of Earth Observation (EO) data for scientific work and future emerging applications. These observations can reveal novel scientific insights on the detection and monitoring of anthropogenic heat emission, thereby generating new EO opportunities.

Since the rate of warming in cities is higher than the average global warming, both urban planning and Earth system science communities need spatially disaggregated anthropogenic heat emission data; such information is practically impossible to derive by point in-situ fluxes measurements, while satellite remote sensing is considered in URBANFLUXES as a valuable tool for estimating the Urban Energy Budget (UEB) parameters. The basic idea behind URBANFLUXES is to break down UEB and to quantify the anthropogenic heat flux patterns of day and night, week and weekend, summer and winter times, by combining observations form different Copernicus Sentinels satellite missions. The anthropogenic heat flux is the heat flux resulting from vehicular emissions, space heating and cooling of buildings, industrial processing and the metabolic heat release by people. In URBANFLUXES, the UEB is considered in the context of a volume because of the three-dimensional nature of cities.

The major challenge for URBANFLUXES is the innovative exploitation of Copernicus Sentinels data to estimate the spatiotemporal patterns all UEB fluxes. The main research question is whether EO is able to provide reliable estimates of anthropogenic heat flux for the time of the satellite acquisition. URBANFLUXES will address it by combining Sentinels observations with conventional meteorological measurements, developing new methods for estimating each UEB term. The energy balance residual approach will be employed to estimate the anthropogenic heat flux: the anthropogenic heat flux will be estimated by regressing the turbulent heat fluxes vs available energy, for every pixel in each Local Climate Zone. The main assumptions in URBANFLUXES are: the energy consumed in buildings is released into the environment after use and the advection term is included in the error of the energy balance closure.

By exploiting Copernicus Sentinels synergistic observations, URBANFLUXES is expected to:

  • generate a novel EO-based method for estimation of UEB, easily transferable to any urban area and enabling its integration into operational applications, as for example the evaluation of the implementation of climate change mitigation technologies such as solar-screening, green-belting and carbon-cooling
  • advance the current knowledge of the impacts of UEB fluxes on urban heat island and hence on urban climate and energy consumption and ssupport the development of tools and strategies to mitigate these effects, improving thermal comfort and energy efficiency
  • provide anthropogenic heat emissions benchmark data for different applications (UEB models, building energy models, etc.) and develop EO-based services capable of supporting urban planning
Communities of practice

Communities of Practice

In URBANFLUXES we want to develop a useful tool for improving urban structures. To provide the research team with advice and practical examples, a Community of Practice will be formed in each case study city. The Communities of Practice are formed within URBANFLUXES by bringing urban stakeholders and scientists together to talk and exchange knowledge and expertise. People involved in the communities meet on a regular basis to learn from each other and make clear what the important criteria are for developing useful URBANFLUXES end products.

Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and who learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wenger, 2002). Communities of Practice develop around things that matter to people. The members of a community deepen their knowledge and expertise in a particular area by interacting on an ongoing basis. Examples of Communities of Practice are a band of artists seeking new forms of expression or a group of engineers working on similar problems.

A Community of Practice can be characterized by three core dimensions: the domain, the community and the practice. If a group of people develops these three elements in parallel it constitutes a Community of Practice.

The domain

A Community of Practice is not merely a network of people. It has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership implies a commitment to the domain, and a shared competence that distinguishes its members from other people. A domain can be any kind of expertise like ‘tomato growing’, ‘urban planning’, ‘empowerment’ or ‘surviving on the street’.

The community

In pursuing their interest in a specific domain, the members of a CoP build relationships that enable them to learn from each other. They engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. Members of a Community of Practice interact on a regular basis. The Impressionists, for instance, used to meet in cafes and studios to discuss the style of painting they were inventing together. These interactions were essential to create a Community of Practice, even though they often painted alone.

The practice

Members of a Community of Practice develop a shared practice. Together they create a repertoire of resources: methods, tools, experiences, stories, and ways of addressing recurring problems. This takes time and sustained interaction. Nurses who meet regularly in a hospital cafeteria may not even realize that their lunch discussions are one of their main sources of knowledge about how to care for patients. In the course of all these conversations, they develop a set of stories and cases that become a shared repertoire for their practice.

The concept of community of practice has found a rich and growing number of practical applications in business, organizational design, government, education, professional associations, development projects, and civic life.


Urban Meteorological Station Network in Heraklion
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Urban Meteorological Station Network in Basel
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Station Network in Basel

Involved teams