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NIUA Cool Cities Knowledge Hub


Average temperatures in Indian metropolises have risen by upto 0.9 °C in the last few decades . Heat waves, periods of high temperatures (above 40 °C) experienced over continuous days, have become more frequent and intense. Climate change and character of urbanization are driving extreme heat in urban India.

The future could be more disruptive. Temperatures in India could increase by 4.4 °C by 2100 in a worst-case scenario where countries fail to contain their greenhouse emissions reduction targets. Majority of climate change models expect likelihood of severe heat waves to be more pronounced.

Heat waves are intensifying in India

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Cooling with electrical systems
will increase emissions

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Across the world, cities are heating up twice as fast as the global average because of “urban heat islands” (UN DESA 2018). Urban India is no exception. Heat maps created for select Indian cities confirm hotspots or “heat islands” that experience higher temperatures than surrounding rural or peri-urban zones.


Dark, heat-absorbing urban surfaces

Concrete, asphalt, glass, and other materials used in buildings and pavements in urban areas have high heat-absorbing properties (also called low albedo) compared to trees and natural ground. 1/3rd of surfaces in an average city globally are hard pavements. Surface temperatures of typical urban surfaces can rise upto 65 °C in summer. Heat absorbed from solar radiation during daytime is emitted at night.


Lost green and blue cover

Trees, vegetation, and water bodies absorb less heat and cool through evaporation. Contemporary urbanization has overrun vast tracts of natural ground cover and ignored conservation or enhancement of blue-green cover. Indian’s living in metropolises have access to only 2 square meters of open spaces against the 10 square meters recommended by World Health Organization. Unplanned urban development has led to destruction of nearly 2 out of 5 Indian wetlands in the last 30 years.


Heat trapping urban geometry

Shape, height and positioning of buildings affect exposure to sun of surfaces and wind flows. This, in turn, changes capacity to store or release solar energy. Uniformly tall buildings along narrow streets prevent heat dissipation by reducing wind velocity and frequently, by changing its direction. Taller buildings in mid-to-low rise development face long exposure to sun.


Anthropogenic heat

Heat is produced and trapped by pollutants from vehicle emissions, warm air exhaust from air conditioners and waste heat from industrial processes. Dispersion of this heat is further slowed by the dense placement of high-rise buildings and narrow road networks.


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