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The Urban Chill

The Urban Chill

Posted on 16 Feb 2024

“It is good people who make good places.” -  Anna Sewell, Black Beauty

Winter presents unique challenges for cities around the world. From the northern reaches of Scandinavia to the bustling metropolises of North America and Asia, urban centers must cope with everything from snow removal and transportation disruptions to ensuring the well-being of their residents during extreme cold. 

In our latest blog post we will explore the creative approaches that some of the world’s cities are using to build resilient and pleasant environments for people (and perhaps horses) to live. 

Clearing the snow

One of the most immediate challenges winter brings is the need to keep the roads and pathways clear of snow. Sweden keeps their snow clearing efforts as environmentally friendly as possible by using a fleet of snow plows and snow cannons that use a mixture of snow and water, reducing the need for harmful de-icing chemicals. This not only protects the environment but also safeguards the city's water sources

On the other side of the Atlantic, the city of Montreal employs a well-coordinated strategy, mobilizing a large workforce and deploying a fleet of snow removal lorries equipped with GPS technology. This allows authorities to track the progress of snow removal in real-time and optimize routes, ensuring that major thoroughfares are cleared promptly.

Many cities around the world use salt to help keep the road safe and free of snow and ice. Although effective, this approach has a number of environmental drawbacks, especially when the residual salt enters farmland. A number of alternatives have been proposed, including the use of beet juice, mixed with sugar and salt, as well as a biomass salt made from grass and organic waste. 

Winter Cycling Infrastructure

Winter weather creates its own challenges with regard to maintaining an environmentally friendly transportation network. Copenhagen has invested in maintaining cycling infrastructure throughout the winter. The city clears dedicated bike lanes promptly after snowfall, ensuring that cyclists can continue to use this eco-friendly mode of transport even in freezing conditions. Copenhagen's commitment to year-round cycling not only reduces traffic congestion but also promotes a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Innovative Heating Solutions

Extreme cold poses significant risks to public health, making heating solutions a top priority for many cities. Reykjavik faces particularly harsh winter conditions. To combat this, the city taps into its unique geothermal resources, utilizing natural hot springs to heat public spaces and even pedestrian walkways. This creative approach not only keeps residents warm but also underscores the city's commitment to sustainability.

Public Engagement and Community Building

The city of Harbin in northeastern China has embraced its chilly climate by hosting an annual Ice Festival. During the festival, intricate ice sculptures illuminate the city, turning the harsh winter into a tourist attraction. By doing this, Harbin has turned its cold weather into an economic opportunity, showcasing how creativity can transform a potential challenge into a unique asset.

Winter weather often isolates individuals, limiting outdoor activities and social interaction. To counter this, some cities have implemented initiatives to foster community engagement during the colder months. Anchorage in  Alaska organizes a winter festival that includes activities such as winter sports, and community gatherings. By providing residents with opportunities to embrace and enjoy winter, the city strengthens community bonds and mitigates the impact of the harsh climate on mental well-being.

Emergency Response and Preparedness

Cities must also be prepared for extreme winter weather events, including heavy snowfall, ice storms, and sub-zero temperatures. Toronto has developed an innovative approach to managing emergencies during the winter months. The city's emergency services work with meteorologists to predict severe weather events accurately. Additionally, Toronto has established warming centers and outreach programs to assist vulnerable populations during extreme cold snaps, ensuring that no one is left exposed to the elements.

Smart Technologies for Winter Resilience

Advancements in technology play a crucial role in helping cities manage winter challenges. In Helsinki, smart technologies are leveraged to monitor and predict winter weather conditions. The city uses sensors to collect data on road and pathway temperatures, allowing for more efficient deployment of snow removal equipment. Residents can also access real-time information about the status of snow removal efforts through mobile apps, empowering them to plan their routes.

Adaptive Architecture and Urban Planning

Cities are increasingly incorporating adaptive architecture and urban planning to address the unique challenges posed by winter weather. Quebec City, known for its historic architecture, has integrated covered walkways, known as "les passages," throughout the central city area. These passageways protect pedestrians from snow and wind, creating a network of interconnected indoor spaces that encourage year-round exploration, commerce and artistic events.

How OpenWeather can help

Each city has its own, unique characteristics. Using OpenWeather products, the weather can be understood both historically, currently and into the future not just for the overall city, but for a particular region or even street. 

The OpenWeather Global Weather Alerts product can be used by city authorities to obtain valuable warnings of severe weather conditions, for any location in the world. 

Our One Call API 3.0 provides nuanced yet easy to use access to essential global weather data, short-term and long-term forecasts and aggregated historical weather data. 

The One Call API 3.0 offers access to a range of data through three endpoints:

1. Current weather conditions and forecasts:

  • Minute-by-minute forecast for the next hour

  • Hourly forecast spanning 48 hours

  • Daily forecast covering 8 days

  • Government weather alerts

2. Weather data available for any specific timestamp from a historical archive spanning over 40 years, alongside forecasts for the next 4 days.

3. Daily aggregation of weather data from a historical archive spanning over 40 years, along with forecasts extending 1.5 years ahead.

Winter weather poses many challenges for cities worldwide, demanding innovative solutions that go beyond traditional approaches. Understanding the complex, yet predictable weather can be seen to play a key role in creating a sustainable, efficient and pleasant winter urban landscape.

About OpenWeather:

OpenWeather provides weather data for any location on the globe using a proprietary hyperlocal forecasting model with a resolution from 500 m to 2 km, globally. More than 6,000,000 customers from logistics, agriculture, insurance, energy, retail, and many other sectors, are working with the company's weather products. 

OpenWeather cooperates with global meteorological agencies such as MetOffice and NOAA, and enhances its model with data from radars, weather stations and satellites. The company provides great availability of service at 99.9% for enterprise-level products. 

The products can be easily integrated into complex IT systems and are ideal for ML analytic systems. OpenWeather is a member of Royal Meteorological Society and an Achilles-certified supplier. OpenWeather ethical initiatives include support of educators and students, not-for-profit subscriptions for the general public to increase weather awareness, and recent Ukrainian donation programme.

For more information on how to gain access to our OpenWeather products, please email us.

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