Fever of the City: An Introduction to Urban Heat Island

Do you know that many cities are suffering of fever when their temperatures are significantly above the normal ambient temperatures recorded in the last centuries? In fact, this is one of the overarching issue addressed in Paris Summit 2015 to work towards the reduction of global temperature below 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels. Urban Heat Island (UHI), an ephemeral phenomenon where the cities are relatively warmer than the surroundings, is deemed to be a collateral impact of human-induced modifications to the surface energy balance of the natural environment that resulted in the accumulation of anomalous heat in the cities. Elevating impacts of increasing temperature on the earth alarm the need for awareness creation via effective dissemination of knowledge which is pivotal for environmental stewardship in future.

In this context, a UHI awareness program entitled ‘Fever of the Cities’ was organized on 28th June 2018 (Thursday) for the international school children of myIGCSE Learning Centre (Bakti Didik) by Grand Challenge Research Group (GC002-15SUS) in collaboration with Sustainability Science Research Cluster and Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Malaya. The aim of the event is to provide some rudimentary knowledge and awareness of UHI and associated issues through some interactive and fun-based activities to the school children aged between 8 and 18. The concept of this event is similar to an ‘ExploRace’, where children in groups of 8 to 10 have to patronize individual checkpoints to obtain clues to solve a crossword puzzle on Urban Heat Island phenomenon. A total of four checkpoints were set up and each checkpoint arranged some activities related to climate change and UHI issues. Meanwhile, short presentations on introduction to UHI and air pollution were inserted in between the main agenda to ingrain some fundamental knowledge of UHI and associated issues. Lastly, Dr Nasrin Aghamohammadi, Principal Investigator of Grand Challenge Program, wrapped-up the event with a brief talk session on how the children can engage themselves on tackling UHI and related issues. As the second agenda, a short ‘UHI Data Analysis Workshop Using Modified Weather Stations’ was conducted to expose the students to the weather stations, database and the simplest ways to perform data analysis and present it in an easily assimilable way.

To put it in a nutshell, this program serves as one of the on-going effort of Grand Challenge team of University of Malaya, led by Dr. Nasrin Aghamohammadi, to spread its wings out for the empowerment and activate participation of the children in tackling various climate-related environmental issues at the local level. Proper and effective dissemination of knowledge is pivotal in the creation of new generation stakeholders and decision makers who can perform pragmatic evidence-based decisions to sustain climate-friendly living environments for the future.

Written by Logaraj Ramakreshnan, for the Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya, 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.