Wanted: citizen climate scientists for nationwide study

If you've ever fancied yourself as an amateur climate scientist, you now have an opportunity to participate in an Australia-wide micro-climate study.

The project, conducted by RMIT and the University of NSW, aims to explore the urban heat island effect in greater detail.

Canberra temperatures shown as departures from the average temperature of 35 degrees. Temperatures captured by thermal imagery on February 9, 2017 and taken from the CSIRO report 'Mapping surface urban heat in Canberra'. Photo: CSIRO

Canberra temperatures shown as departures from the average temperature of 35 degrees. Temperatures captured by thermal imagery on February 9, 2017 and taken from the CSIRO report 'Mapping surface urban heat in Canberra'. Photo: CSIRO

Participation in the study would involve Canberrans measuring wind, temperature and humidity in Tuggeranong, Woden and Gungahlin to form baseline climate data for these areas.

The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon where certain urban areas will become significantly hotter than other parts of the city due to the concentration of built environments and lack of water or vegetation.

The ACT government commissioned CSIRO to produce a report, which was released earlier this year.

The report found that land surface temperatures in Canberra could differ by as much as 22 degrees. Canberra's inner suburbs were typically cooler while areas with large expanses of impervious surfaces such as rooftops and paving, such as industrial areas or new housing developments, were hotter.

Clusters of neighbourhoods with high heat exposure were found in Gungahlin, west Belconnen and Molonglo Valley.

One of the reports authors, Guy Barnett said the warmer temperatures were caused by heat being absorbed into roads and buildings and then slowly emitted into the urban environment. Vegetation and bodies of water, such as Lake Burley Griffin, could significantly reduce temperatures in nearby suburbs.

"We know in the ACT, with climate change, our summers are going to become warmer, we’re going to see more frequent and longer lasting heat wave events," Mr Barnett said.

"What this report does is help to point to areas where we have high heat at the moment in Canberra and points to some of the actions how you might mitigate that heat and adapt to a warming climate."

Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury urged Canberrans to get involved with the new study to help get a better understanding of the capital's micro-climates.

“We would love to see around 100 volunteers come together to help track the changing climate in
our local centres," Mr Rattenbury said.

"Together, we can make a real difference when it comes to understanding how the climate is changing, and what factors contribute to the urban heat island effect."

He said the three town centres were chosen as they have substantially varied climate data, such as Tuggeranong being generally cooler thanks to its lake, town park and surrounding woodlands.

To be involved in the project you must be available for two hours from 2pm to 4pm on February 8, 9 or 10 next year. Those interested should register online at citizenscienceproject.org.au