Significance of micro-climates

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Significance of micro-climates

Thursday, 22 October 2015 | Kota Sriraj

Though less understood and largely under-utilised, strategic intervention with micro-climate conditions can help tackle climate change. As the world chases elusive targets in its efforts to rein in climate change, India can take a leap

Micro-climates are atmospheric zones pertaining to a limited geographical area, and constitute an essential part of climate science. Effective management of micro-climates can help create a buffer against the larger threat of climate change and help the geographical region to cope with and adapt to climate change.

The significance of micro-climate can be judged from the fact that mismanagement of micro climactic conditions can amplify the effects of climate change in the form of temperature peaks, droughts, irregular rains or delayed rainfall.

Currently, the threat perception for the environment is analysed and gauged from the perspective of macro-climate related predictions and seldom correlated with local climactic conditions. In fact, the subject area of climate science currently focuses on regional weather and larger climate trends and dwells less on the inter relations between macro- and micro-climate conditions. This hinders the understanding of micro-climates and the potential role they can play in stalling climate change.

Micro-climates are the amazing local interplays between factors such as soil temperature, air temperature, wind directions, soil moisture and air humidity-affected by day night effects and seasonal effects. They are determined by the particular landscape, soil conditions, vegetation, land use and water retention.

Strategic intervention with the micro-climate conditions can help tackle climate change at the grass root level. Retaining water at the landscape level with water harvesting, water spreading, controlling erosion and drainage are effective forms of strategic intervention at local level that can improve soil moisture in the landscape. Better moisture levels help in controlling the fluctuating soil temperature and enable the soil bacteria to fixate nitrogen and add to the overall fertility of the landscape.

Yet another intervention can be in the form of increasing the local vegetation levels, which can help in heat absorption and reduce heat radiation. Moreover, better vegetation helps create local winds that effectively circulate air and maintain ambient temperatures at ideal levels.

Micro-climate conditions assume even more significance in an urban scenario. The urban setting comprises of concrete structures and reflective surfaces that do not absorb heat but radiate it into the immediate atmosphere creating a heat island effect.

This causes an increase in temperatures and contributes to climate change process. The Government and bodies such as the National Green Tribunal must take cognizance of this increasing problem and take appropriate measures using a micro-climactic approach to tackle the heat island effect.

According to a study conducted by Eleftheria Alexandri under the aegis of Greek Scholarship Foundation, greening of the urban structures can have a remarkable effect on the micro-climate of the city.

The findings of the study show that there is a crucial potential of lowering urban temperatures when the building envelope is covered with vegetation. The combination of both green roofs and green walls can lead to a significant reduction in temperatures inside the building and mitigate high temperature levels outside that cause urban heat island effect.

The Government can set the ball rolling by ‘greening’ the Government buildings. This initiative will set an encouraging precedent for the common man to follow and the Government can further promote the concept by offering soft loans and incentives such as property tax rebates for those opting for greening their structures.

Applied to the city as a whole, the green buildings initiative can be an effective micro-climactic approach that can mitigate raised urban temperatures, and bring them down to more ‘human friendly’ levels.

The scant research and development in India on the subject area of micro-climactic conditions can become a hurdle in cultivating the concept and utilising it for larger environmental and human welfare.

The Government must encourage studies and commission research projects that help establish the correlation between macro and micro-climactic conditions and the benefits of micro-climate management.

Micro-climate management varies from one scenario to another, hence to derive maximum benefits, it is crucial to establish management methodology standards and integrate the same with environmental goals.

As the world chases elusive targets in its efforts to rein in climate change, India must step forward and set a practical example by managing climate change in real time by effectively operating the micro-climate conditions.

 

The dividends of a successful micro-climate management manifest themselves in the form of improved groundwater table; vegetation levels and better agricultural productivity due to secured moisture, gentler microclimates and higher soil nitrogen availability. Though less understood and largely under-utilised, the management of micro-climate is a powerful tool to smoothen out the impacts of climate change and develop resilience against the same.

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