March 6, 2014
Ben Ruddell, a senior sustainability scientist and assistant professor of engineering at Arizona State University, is part of a team using data to develop models for urban microclimates. A microclimate is a small atmospheric zone where the climate differs from the surrounding area, and can range in size from a single garden to neighborhood. Microclimates within a city are affected by a myriad of factors, such as shade, vegetation, moisture and building materials. A model that can predict the effects of changes made to microclimates can help us better engineer them for human health and comfort.
Ruddell's team is working with Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research (CAP LTER) project to observe microclimates in neighborhoods throughout Phoenix and build a database. The data is then used for modeling that will help to engineer healthier, more comfortable and more efficient cities. For example, homeowners choosing between landscaping options can weigh the temperature-reducing effect of lawns and trees against the amount of water they require. In tackling this enormous task, the team hopes to create a system that allows for better decision-making on both individual and municipal scales.