Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Urban Heat Island Effect Modelling with GNSS Sensor Network

  Jorge Mendez Astudillo (2014 cohort)   www.nottingham.ac.uk/~psxjm7

The aim of my PhD is to create a way to monitor Urban Heat Islands using Global Navigation Satellite System, especially Global Positioning System (GPS). Urban heat island occur when the heat absorbed by building and man-made structures is realized to the atmosphere, the temperature of the city is higher than its rural surroundings. UHI needs to be measured and monitored and its effects on health and power consumption can be mitigated using different techniques like a cool roof.

Currently UHI is monitored using Remote Sensing: taking thermal pictures with a satellite and analyzing them, however, this requires pictures of different years and the days must be clear so that the image is easy to process. Another way of calculating UHI nowadays is by analyzing data collected with a weather monitoring station, this is a good way to map the UHI if the weather stations are located within the city and outside the city. Neither of the two techniques allow to do a real-time monitoring of UHI.

The technique that I will explore is GPS meteorology which is a potential remote sensing technique. GPS consists of a constellation of satellites that transmit L band radio signals to large numbers of users equipped with GPS receivers. A procedure based on very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) has been devised for estimating the extent to which the atmosphere and water vapor in particular [1], are slowing the propagation speed of GPS radio signals. This delay allows to measure the atmosphere. This technique will be applied to measure and map Urban Heat Islands.

GPS receivers are currently embedded in many electronic devices such as smartphones, driving assistants, aircraft etc. Therefore, GPS can be easily used to sense the atmosphere. Other systems will be explored that would allow to create a participatory sensing system using sensors embedded in smartphones (A manufacturer claims their devices is equipped with at least 3 environment sensors) or by using weather monitoring sensors external to the phone but that interact with smartphones and with a server. UHI monitoring is part of a smart city because it provides information to design more energy efficient cities so smart citizens must be willing to participating in a participatory system using smartphones.

Currently I’m in my first year of the PhD and I will be developing the research in the University of Nottingham Ningbo China under the International Doctorate Innovation Center.


  1. Bevis M, Businger S, Herring T A, Rocken C, Anthes R.A, and Ware H. GPS meteorology-Remote sensing of atmospheric water vapor using the Global positioning System (1992). Vol 97, no 97

This work was carried out at the International Doctoral Innovation Centre (IDIC). The authors acknowledge the financial support from Ningbo Education Bureau, Ningbo Science and Technology Bureau, China's MOST, and the University of Nottingham. The work is also partially supported by EPSRC grant no EP/L015463/1.