Establishing a long term urban research facility

Urban areas are complex systems, comprising many interacting infrastructure sectors. Understanding these inter-relationships is essential to sustainable urban and infrastructure development. Research focused on single sectors, or over limited timescales, will inevitably fail to capture these interdependencies and dynamics.

Long Term Ecological Research‘ in the USA has over 30 years monitored a wide range of species, habitat types etc. to develop a richer understanding of the ecological system as a whole and consequently how it might respond to stresses such as climate change. Inspired by this, and funded by an EPSRC New Directions grant, we will establish a unique ‘Long Term Urban Research’ programme that will deliver the evidence basis for sustainable infrastructure investment in urban areas.

Our ‘Long Term Urban Research’ programme will apply engineering principles at a city-scale. The facility will monitor a range of infrastructures and sectors (e.g. water, earthworks, transport, climate, waste etc.), interactions between sectors and the phenomena only observable at the system scale (such as the urban heat island). The work will be based in Newcastle and develop:

  • Long-term datasets generated by using multiple methodologies (including a new array of hundreds of sensors and other monitoring equipment) that will observe phenomena at the individual, building, campus through to city-wide and regional scales.
  • Informatics for managing, archiving and accessing real-time, remotely sensed and qualitative data.
  • Simulation models and qualitative interpretation that use this new data to better understand cities, infrastructure systems and urban activity.
The facility will bring together new and existing data that includes the urban climate (temperature, rainfall, humidity etc.), air quality, pedestrian and traffic flows and hydraulic flows. The sectoral breadth and spatial resolution of coverage will provide a globally unique monitoring facility.

Caribbean Weather Generator project

Researchers in the school have been awarded a two year project to address weather related climate change hazards and impacts for the Caribbean region.

Managers and policy makers in the Caribbean require knowledge of the likely impacts and hazards arising from climate change that are specific to their geographical location and that are relevant to their planning time-horizons (e.g. the short term (2030s) and the longer term (2080s)). However, current climate model projections of the weather are of limited use in this respect due to scale and bias issues. A web service will be developed to address this need through the adaptation and provision of leading weather-generator models from the EARWIG [1] and the UKCIP09 [2] climate knowledge systems. These weather generator models will be used to provide locally relevant weather projections based on the best available observed data and climate model outputs for the region.

Preliminary use of the new web service will be for impacts studies and training programs with stakeholders. This will feed through to management decisions and policy developed to address the specific hazards and impacts of climate change on the region.

The project is funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) and work will be carried out in partnership with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (Belize), University of East Anglia, University of the West Indies and the Institute of Meteorology (Cuba).


1 Kilsby, C.G., Jones, P.D., Burton, A., Ford, A.C., Fowler, H.J., Harpham, C., James, P., Smith, A. and Wilby, R.L. 2007. A daily weather generator for use in climate change studies. Environmental Modelling and
Software, 22, 1705-1719.

2 Jones, P.D., Kilsby, C.G., Harpham, C., Glenis, V., and Burton, A., 2009. UK Climate Projections science report: Projections of future daily climate for the UK from the Weather Generator. University of Newcastle,
UK. ISBN 978-1-906360-06-1,

Help us with the ‘Toon Monsoon’ Flood project


Lightning strikes the Tyne Bridge. Picture taken from video by Marc Burton.

The School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at Newcastle University is conducting a study of the flash-flooding that hit Newcastle and the North East on June 28th, 2012. They aim to gather as much information as possible from photos, eye witness reports and measurements to help them to understand the extent of the flooding around the region, its impacts and how to improve the resilience of the city and its infrastructure to similar events in future. The study is being carried out by internationally leading research groups in flood risk and urban drainage, as well in transport operations.

A web site has been set up to allow people to upload their photos and comments on a map: this can be accessed at: This follows on from a similar study carried out after the Morpeth flood of 2008 where valuable lessons were learned and are being put into practice with collaborators in government and industry.