ISS uses instruments to capture heat extremes from European cities

ISS uses instruments to capture heat extremes from European cities

Temperatures have risen around the world and broken records almost everywhere. One third of the United States were during excessive heat heating weeks ago as domes of high pressure, or heat domes, trapped hot air. Things are not better across the Atlantic, with temperatures also breaking records in Madrid, Paris and Rome, among other places.

An instrument carried on the International Space Station (ISS) has now captured the latest temperature extremes for many major European cities. Although these images do not provide any comfort to those who can handle the heat, they can help mitigate the effects of future heat waves by better managing and planning water resources.

There is a lot of red in these temperature images. Image credit: ESA.

This instrument, called ECOSTRESS, assists in the development of the new Copernicus Sentinel satellite – Land Surface Temperature Monitoring (LSTM) mission. The European Space Agency (ESA) uses ECOTRESS to simulate data that will eventually be returned by LSTM, which will measure the temperature on the land surface.

LSTM can be a game converter for urban planners and farmers around the world, ESA claims, because it has a high resolution of its thermal infrared sensor for ground surface temperature. It will help us better understand and respond to climate change, manage water resources for agricultural production and tackle land degradation. The problem is that this is not really good news.

Extreme heat waves

The world has already warmed by about 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and temperatures are expected to continue to rise – unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced. This has a whole range of consequences for everyone, including denser, longer and more intense extreme heat waves.

Heat waves are not only an annoying thing we have to deal with but can in fact be very dangerous, leading to illness and death, especially among older adults and very young people. Excessive heat has been linked to high blood pressure, asthmaand renal failure. It also interferes with sleep, changes in our motor functions can lead to Depression.

June was a stark reminder of what to expect when climate change begins. For several days in a row, many European cities had air temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius. But Europe was not alone in this. Tokyo had air temperatures over 35 degrees Celsius for five days in a row – the worst warm weather in June since measurements began in 1875.

The photos taken by ECOSTRESS show temperatures on land in Milan, Paris and Prague on June 18 in the early afternoon. For comparison, the broader view of surface temperature in Europe below was taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission on 18 June. ECOSTRESS images have a much higher spatial resolution than Sentinel-3.

Image credit: ESA.

The temperature of the ground surface is a measure of how warm the surface would feel when touched. Scientists are monitoring this as the heat rising from the planet’s surface affects weather and climate patterns. These measurements are also relevant for farmers to evaluate how much water their crops need and for urban planners to improve heat reduction strategies.

“ECOSTRESS continues to map the effects of extreme heat in cities around the world, including the recent heat waves that broke records in both Europe and the United States. This data can be used to identify hotspots, vulnerable regions and assess the cooling effects of heat-reducing approaches,” Glynn concluded. Hulley, a NASA scientist, in a statement.

Having a better understanding of temperature variations is important to improve our understanding of how climate change works – but it does not help us deal with climate change without action.

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