Cities warming due to effect of urbanisation, climate change

Cities warming due to effect of urbanisation, climate change


The recent spike in Delhi’s daytime temperatures, breaching the 50 degrees Celsius mark for two consecutive days, has set an alarming record. This unprecedented heat highlights a critical issue: the urban areas are getting hotter compared to their rural counterparts.

  • This phenomenon, driven by ongoing climate change and rapid urbanization, is defining the Anthropocene era and making urban populations particularly vulnerable.
  • With India’s urban population expected to double by 2050, surpassing the current combined population of the United States and the European Union, the urgency to address these challenges cannot be overstated.

GS-01 (Physical Geography)

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the Topic About and the Issue
  • Status of India and Background
  • Challenges
  • Key Takeaways

What is the Topic About:

  • This analysis delves into the urban heat island (UHI) effect—a phenomenon where urban areas experience higher temperatures than their rural surroundings due to altered thermodynamic and aerodynamic properties.
  • The issue at hand is the compounded impact of climate change and urbanization on city temperatures, which poses significant public health risks and challenges in urban planning.
  • The escalating urban temperatures exacerbate the effects of global warming, leading to a complex warming pattern influenced by both local and global factors.

Status of India and Background

  • India’s urban landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation. With urbanization progressing at a rapid pace, cities are not only growing in population but also in infrastructure that exacerbates the UHI effect.
  • The construction of concrete structures, roads, and industrial facilities, along with increased vehicular activities and residential energy consumption, traps more heat in urban areas. This results in cities being significantly warmer than their rural and suburban counterparts.
  • A recent study aimed to disentangle the warming effects of local urbanization from regional climate change across 141 major Indian cities. This scientific endeavor involved analyzing high-resolution night-time land surface temperature data from the MODIS sensor aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite. By comparing temperature changes in urban areas to their rural counterparts, the study isolated the urbanization-driven warming effect, revealing that cities are warming at nearly twice the rate of rural areas, with local urbanization contributing to 60% of this additional warming.


  • Complex Urban Warming Patterns: Urban warming is influenced by numerous factors, including concrete structures, vehicular emissions, air conditioning usage, and industrial activities. This complexity makes it challenging to develop effective mitigation strategies that address all contributing factors simultaneously.
  • Variability Among Cities: The study highlighted significant variability in warming rates among different cities. Tier-II cities in eastern India exhibited stronger urbanization-driven warming compared to larger metros, indicating diverse urbanization impacts across the country. This variability necessitates tailored approaches for different urban areas.
  • Public Health Risks: Increased temperatures in urban areas pose severe health risks, including heat-related illnesses and mortality. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and children, are particularly at risk, underscoring the need for effective heat management and public health strategies.
  • Infrastructure and Resource Constraints: Implementing urban heat management strategies requires substantial investments in infrastructure and resources. Developing sustainable materials, green infrastructures, and comprehensive emission reduction strategies involves significant financial and logistical challenges, especially for rapidly growing cities.

Key Takeaways

  • Differentiated Approach to Urban Heat Management: Urban heat management must be tailored to the specific needs of each city. Cities with high urbanization-driven warming should focus on local interventions, such as sustainable building materials, green spaces, and urban forests. In contrast, cities with significant regional warming contributions may require broader efforts, including national or regional emission reduction and large-scale afforestation.
  • Importance of Sustainable Materials and Green Infrastructure: Adopting sustainable materials like cool roofs and permeable pavements, along with developing green infrastructures such as parks and urban forests, can significantly mitigate urban heat. These interventions help absorb and dissipate heat, reducing the UHI effect.
  • Role of Water Bodies and Urban Planning: Maintaining and rejuvenating urban lakes and water bodies can help regulate city temperatures. Effective urban planning that integrates water bodies and green spaces can enhance the resilience of cities to heat waves and extreme weather events.
  • Comprehensive Emission Reduction Strategies: Reducing emissions at both local and regional levels is crucial for managing urban heat. This includes transitioning to non-fossil fuel energy sources, enhancing public transportation systems, and implementing strict emission regulations for industries and vehicles.
  • Public Awareness and Policy Support: Raising public awareness about the UHI effect and the importance of sustainable urban practices is essential. Policymakers must support urban heat management initiatives through regulations, incentives, and funding to ensure widespread implementation and effectiveness.

Way forward:

  • Integrated Urban Heat Management Plans: Developing integrated heat management plans that combine local and regional strategies can enhance the effectiveness of urban heat mitigation efforts. These plans should be data-driven, incorporating high-resolution satellite imagery and climate models to identify and address specific heat sources.
  • Technological Innovations: Leveraging technological innovations, such as smart city technologies and advanced materials, can help manage urban heat more effectively. Technologies like IoT sensors for real-time temperature monitoring and AI-driven climate models can provide valuable insights for targeted interventions.
  • Collaborative Efforts: Collaboration between government agencies, private sector, academia, and civil society is crucial for addressing urban heat challenges. Joint efforts can facilitate knowledge sharing, resource pooling, and coordinated actions to mitigate the impacts of urbanization and climate change.
  • Long-term Sustainability Goals: Urban heat management should be integrated into broader sustainability goals, aligning with initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement. This ensures that urban heat mitigation contributes to global efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable urban development.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Regular monitoring and evaluation of urban heat management strategies are essential for assessing their effectiveness and making necessary adjustments. Continuous data collection, analysis, and reporting can help track progress and identify areas for improvement.