Science - May 31, 2018

Meteorologist measures how Amsterdam ‘breathes’

Text:
Roelof Kleis

How does Amsterdam ‘breathe’? To find out, Bert Heusinkveld of the Meteorology and Air Quality chair group has placed equipment on top of the Carlton Hotel, on a high-level artwork.

Bert Heusinkveld on top of the Carlton Hotel in Amsterdam to install measuring equipment. ©Bert Heusinkveld

The film clips the Wageningen meteorologist made up there himself are breath-taking. You can see him at work at 45 metres high, balancing on a couple of narrow iron beams. Rest assured, he is secured. ‘Still, it’s quite scary,’ admits the experienced mountaineer. ‘If you fall, you come down hard.’

Flux
Heusinkveld wants to get a unique series of measurements using the installation on the Carlton. The aim of the project, financed by the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, is to gain an understanding of how a city responds to the climate. ‘We want to measure the flux in Amsterdam, the exchange of heat and moisture, CO2 and methane in the layer of air above the city. How much heat does the city absorb? Does the city absorb CO2 on average, or just the opposite? Or, to put it more poetically: how does the city breathe?

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‘We know quite a lot about the fluxes in forests, farmland and oceans,’ says Heusinkveld. ‘But it hasn’t been studied much in cities.’ A city such as Amsterdam, where there is not much high-rise in the centre, lends itself to such a study, says Heusinkveld. But to measure a kind of average for the city, you have to position your apparatus high enough.

Smartphone
Looking for a suitable location, Heusinkveld ended up at the Carlton, opposite the Munttoren. On top of the Carlton is a steel structure which is meant to be a work of art. He got permission to install his measuring equipment there. He did so one month ago, and measurements have been pouring in since then. Heusinkveld can follow them on his smartphone, and he can also see his apparatus on a camera stream.


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