Project gives insight into microclimates across whole government area

Monitoring microclimates in a large urban council region has enabled people to understand infrastructure needs and air pollution in residential areas.

A citizen science project based around the Internet of Things is delivering valuable insight to local government on synthetic recreational surfaces, which are becoming increasingly common in our suburbs, and how they compare with natural turf surfaces.

The recreational surfaces project is tracking temperature differences between a synthetic soccer field and nearby areas of irrigated and unirrigated natural turf surfaces. Temperature is being recorded at the surface, below the surface, and for the surrounding air.

The data is publicly available, reported in real-time, and enables other interested participants and users to compare the impact of the different surfaces.

A dashboard showing comparative temperatures across three recreational surfaces allow the group to understand more about the microclimates created by the different turf surfaces.
Data collected from the three surfaces are made publicly available in real-time. Credit: City of Port Adelaide Enfield.

Robert Hart, the STEM Learning and Programs Officer at the City of Port Adelaide and Enfield in South Australia, describes the initial results as “fascinating”.

“So, with the artificial turf the surface is cooler than a natural grass surface. The ground temperature [below surface] is pretty much the same, but with natural turf… the air temperature above is more constant and cooler.”

The temperature survey is the latest citizen science initiative of the IoT Experimenters, a group brought together by their shared interest in exploring and experimenting with internet of things (IoT) technologies.  

Another of the group’s project is aimed at understanding the microclimates, with sensors installed at each of the council’s five libraries.

“The Port Adelaide Enfield area is quite large, stretching from the coast up to the foothills of Adelaide,” explains Hart, making it ideal for installing and connecting sensors using the LoRaWAN secure messaging protocol network.

The group designed the sensors using low cost, off-the-shelf microcontrollers, and open-source software. As well as fitting with the group’s small budget, it was hoped that this would make the process accessible for community and school groups that want to replicate the project.

Members of the iot experimenters group sit at a table covered in electronic equipment.
The IoT Experimenters group meet monthly to explore and experiment with IoT technology. Credit: Supplied.

Instructions on how to build the sensors and the live data being captured are publicly available. 

“We went for the basics – temperature, humidity and CO2,” says Hart.

“CO2 is a good as it’s a driver of climate warming [and] it’s also an indicator of pollution levels. If you’ve got dense areas where the airflow is not particularly good through that area, you get an increase in pollution catchment or pollution as a percentage of CO2.”

Hart says that it is the CO2 differences between the five sites that have generated much of the discussion in the online community. “There’s a lovely community discussion about why it is different … there’s not enough trees or there’s too much roadworks or there’s too many buildings and high density. So, there’s a lovely discussion about why these different locations behave the way they do.”

Those interested in learning more about the microclimates project, the IoT Experimenters group, or getting involved in the council’s other citizen science projects can find out more from the City of Port Adelaide Enfield’s citizen science webpage.

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