Urban thermal comfort trends in Sri Lanka: the increasing overheating problem and its potential mitigation

Shifana Simath, Rohinton Emmanuel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Urban dwellers experience overheating due to both global and urban warming. The rapid urbanisation, especially in hot, humid cities, lead to greater exposure to heat risk, both due to increasing urban populations as well as overheating due to global/urban warming. However, a nation-wide exploration of thermal comfort trends, especially in the hot, humid tropics, remains relatively unexplored. In this paper, we explore the recent historical trends (1991–2020) in outdoor thermal comfort across the entire island of Sri Lanka and evaluate the likely effects of known urban climate mitigation strategies — shade and vegetative cover. We find that ‘very strong heat stress’ is moving towards ‘extreme heat stress’ that was barely registered in 1990s and is now common across two-thirds of the landmass of Sri Lanka in the hottest month (April). Even in the coolest month (January), ‘moderate heat stress’ unknown in the 1990s is now becoming a common trend across the most densely populated parts of the country. High shading and vegetation could reduce heat stress, even in the hottest month, but its utility will diminish as the warming continues in future. As such, policies to reduce global warming needs to be urgently pursued while simultaneously adapting to urban warming in Sri Lanka.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1865-1876
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Biometeorology
Volume66
Issue number9
Early online date19 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • urban heat island
  • outdoor comfort
  • urban warming
  • climate sensitive design
  • heat risk

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