SUABE - Surface albedo for Belgian cities

Context and objectives

The large abundance of materials absorbing short-wave radiation from the Sun and the concentration of people make cities particularly vulnerable to the heat island effect. Although the surface albedo and emissivity of the materials in the urban fabric are key quantitative properties for heat pollution mitigation strategies, these are often lacking citywide.  

Since it is practically impossible to have in-situ stations citywide to monitor the radiative regime and characterise the intrinsic radiative properties of walls and buildings (i.e. albedo and emissivity), satellite Earth observations arise as a unique solution to make a significant contribution to providing quantitative information on how urban areas heat up and warm the nearby air. SuaBe’s overall objective is to design and implement an innovative method for assessing the optical temperature properties of typical urban land covers from remote sensing data and subsequently simulating the urban all-wave net radiative budget, considering the 3D structure.

Project outcome

Expected scientific results

Peer-reviewed scientific publications will be prepared to disseminate the research findings.

Societal and environmental relevance

SuaBe’s results can be considered an asset to be used by urban planners and decision-makers to identify what urban areas should be considered priority candidates for an intervention to mitigate heat pollution, which in turn, shall allow authorities or civil organisations to maximise benefits from limited financial resources. Since SuaBe’s methodology is based on a robust and rigorous physical model, it can be seamlessly implemented in any other city worldwide, provided that a geometric urban database is available.

Expected products and services

• SuaBe products for Brussels:

  1. o Seasonal maps all-wave net radiation (70 m).
  2. o Emissivity maps (70 m) per season.
  3. o Hourly time series of surface albedo maps (10 m) for each season.
  • • Services should be designed together with urban planners.

Potential users

The SuaBe products can have the potential to capture the interest of any member of the Earth Observation community involved in urban studies. More specifically, the estimation of surface albedo, surface emissivity and all-wave net radiation at the neighbourhood scale are of high significance for analyzing urban climate change and setting up simulation processes.  Therefore, it is likely that studies tailored to urban environments can benefit from the SuaBe products and methodology derived. 
Although in this phase of the project, we will focus on Brussels as a case study, making the Brussels authorities potential users, the network of potential users can be expanded by applying our algorithms to any other cities in the world.