Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University are creating a heat map of Sri Lanka in a bid to help city planners curb the health impacts of global warming on its population in urban areas.
The team is considering how factors such as high air pollution, reduced night-time cooling and increased temperatures adversely affect human health.
Findings show this ‘urban heat stress’ causes major problems such as exhaustion, respiratory difficulties, heatstroke and even death.
The aim of the project is to quantify the scale of heat stress in the country, which will be done using heat mapping and recorded medical complaints resulting from both climate change and ‘haphazard urbanisation’.
The team will then identify urban planning, design and development guidelines that could enhance resilience in these areas.
Sri Lanka is not the only country affected by heat stress.
The problems are common across south-east Asia as a whole and are likely to spread across the globe as temperatures continue to rise.
Professor Rohinton Emmanuel, director of the university’s BEAM Centre, is leading the project.
He said: “South Asia is one of the regions most likely to experience extreme heat stress as a result of global warming, which worsens health, energy and economic well-being.
“This is made worse still by urban growth.
“While the scale and nature of climate-change-induced heat stress may be unavoidable in the immediate future, the identification of coping strategies and areas where such strategies are most likely to benefit human well-being would add resilience, especially among city-dwellers.
“There are two unknowns at present − the scale of the problem needs to be quantified, and areas where urban planning and policy interventions are most likely to curb heat stress need to be identified to better target the limited available resources.”
The research team expects to map, model and identify coping strategies by the end of the year.
Joining Professor Emmanuel on the Glasgow Caledonian University team are PhD student Nusrath Maharoof and masters student Shifana Simath.
They will be working in partnership with researchers from the University of Reading, the Urban Development Authority of Sri Lanka, plus the University of Moratuwa and the Sri Lankan Department of Meteorology.
The project is being funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Global Challenges and Sustainable Development Unit.