Climate projections and downscaling techniques: a discussion for impact studies in urban systems

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Urban systems are not only major drivers of climate change but also the impact hotspots. In the context of the planet currently undergoing a process of greenhouse warming, and simultaneously predominantly urban based ever continuing population growth, our agglomerations became vulnerable to chain reactions triggered by climate related hazards. Hence, the reliable and cost-effective assessment of future impact is of high importance. While the climate community has invested significant effort to provide downscaling techniques yielding localized information on future climate extreme behaviours, these methods do not remain widely exploited in the process of urban planning. In this work, we discuss the underlying reasons and main challenges of the applicability of downscaling procedures in the real process of urban planning. This paper attempts to help bridge the gap between the communities of urban planners and climatology. In the beginning, we summarize the rationale for such cooperation, supporting the argument that the scale represents an important linkage between urbanistic and climate science in the process of designing an urban space. Secondly, we introduce the main families of downscaling techniques and their application on climate projections, also providing the references to profound studies in the field. Thirdly, special attention is given to previous works focused on the utilization of downscaled ensembles of climate simulations in urban agglomerations. Finally, we identify three major challenges of the wider utilization of climate projections and downscaling techniques, namely: (i) the scale mismatch between data needs and data availability, (ii) the terminology, and (iii) the IT bottleneck. The practical implications of these issues are discussed in the context of urban studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-307
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Urban Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date29 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • adaptation planning
  • climate change
  • downscaling
  • impact assessment
  • Urban climate
  • urban planning

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities

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