A Thermal Climatology Of The West Midlands

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A variety of statistical, measurement and modelling techniques are being used in this project to develop a thermal climatology of the West Midlands in order to redefine the existing seven climate zones that are being used by the UK Meteorological Office for the delivery of their Open Road service to Highway Engineers. The Open Road service comprises a series of road weather forecasts issued each night, in winter, for each of the seven zones.

Currently, the seven Metropolitan Councils that make up the West Midlands spend about 5 million per winter to keep the major roads clear of ice and snow - approximately 3000km are salted. The current forecasts do not take into account the Urban Heat Island Effect, ie urban centres will be significantly warmer at night than the rural surrounds, ironically, city centre roads are salted just as frequently as suburban and rural routes. The project is attempting to understand the links between road surface temperatures and air temperatures, in a complex urban environment, to bring together road weather research and boundary layer meteorology research techniques.


West midlands


The project has been designed in six parts:

  • An analysis of existing historical road weather and climatological data for the West Midlands using PCA and cluster analysis.

  • Construction of a climatology of heating and cooling rates (dT/dt) between a selection of rural, suburban and urban sites.

  • The installation of a new site in Birmingham City Centre to give an estimate of heat island maxima.

  • The carrying out of a number of vehicle based traverses measuring the Sky View Factor across the conurbation.

  • The setting up of a 1km x 1km GIS for the West Midlands to include the physical climatology.

  • The running of a one dimensional energy balance model for each 1km2 to estimate the heat island effect for road surface temperatures.

Start Date/Duration

April 1998 Two years

Lead Organisation

University of Birmingham 


This project will provide a better understanding of the climatology of a complex urban area using both measurements of air and road surface temperatures, and energy balance modelling. It will provide a link between existing knowledge of the boundary layer climate in urban areas and road weather research. It will be of direct use to local highway authorities and lead to better management of winter maintenance in the West Midlands. This in turn will lead to safer roads and more cost-effective winter maintenance. In addition, reductions in salt usage will benefit the urban ecology, reducing salt damage to trees and plants, and reducing the pollution of water draining off the roads.


Local highway authorities

Further Details

Further information is available from the following contacts:

Lead Researcher: Dr J Thornes

Tel: 0121 414 5556, Fax: 0121 414 5556, e-mail: j.e.thornes@bham.ac.uk 

URGENT Programme Manager: Graham Leeks

Tel: 01491 692203, Fax: 01491 692313, e-mail: gjll@ceh.ac.uk