Urban climate research goes international – Hamburg and Oklahoma combine resources

17.06.2013

Since the beginning of the week, urban climate expert Petra Klein has been our guest at the CliSAP Cluster of Excellence. Klein, who is a Professor at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Meteorology, has worked closely together with urban climate researchers in Hamburg for the last ten years.

The latest project at the KlimaCampus involves parallel experiments in Hamburg and Oklahoma. As cities around the world vary widely in terms of their structure and makeup, there are limits to the extent that findings from one city can be applied to another. So as to make these findings more universal, the researchers involved are now planning experiments with comparable designs.

One of Petra Klein’s major research interests is the optimization of measurement networks to deliver more accurate findings on the atmosphere over our cities. In a project she’s currently working on in the States, she compares conventional measurements from probes attached to weather balloons (“radiosondes”) with those from remote-sensing equipment, which transmits laser or acoustic signals to the atmosphere. Different atmospheric layers reflect the signals differently, and the signals that bounce back to the surface provide indirect information on our atmosphere. This remote-sensing approach can be used to create a series of vertical profiles on wind speed, temperature and humidity recorded at very short intervals – a major advantage over the radiosondes, which are usually sent up only twice a day.

Petra Klein first got the ball rolling for international cooperation back in 2003. In the context of a project on the spread of pollutants, she had a miniature model of Oklahoma City constructed at Hamburg’s boundary layer wind tunnel, which is larger and more modern than most of its American counterparts. The successful cooperation has also resulted in the creation of an exchange program for Meteorology students – on average, four young researchers from Hamburg a year travel to Oklahoma for a one-semester stay.