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Foto: Daniël Rommens

Tropical temperatures in Amsterdam - how is the city keeping its cool?

Jip Koene,
7 september 2023 - 09:07

The start of the academic year is being accompanied by tropical temperatures this week. How exceptional is that? And how resilient is Amsterdam to such temperatures? Folia asked associate professor of climate-proof cities Mendel Giezen. “Climate change is going to result in more weeks like this one.”

This week, the Netherlands is experiencing extremely high temperatures. Amsterdam is seeing temperatures well above 25°C, and on Wednesday even above 31°C. Is this a heat record? “I prefer to use the word ‘low’ because heat record sounds a little too positive,” says researcher Mendel. “In that respect, it is an extreme year since not only is the air hot, high ocean temperatures have caused the polar ice caps to melt even more than normal.”

“I prefer to use the word ‘low’ because heat record sounds a little too positive”

How exceptional is such a tropical week in September? Giezen says it remains to be seen whether this year is an exception or if this is an acceleration of climate change. “But it is clear that extreme wet and dry periods will become more frequent.” He also references graphs showing that temperatures are systematically increasing. “All over the world, the effects of climate change are now becoming increasingly clear.” According to the European climate service Copernicus, 2023 was the hottest summer on record.


Heat Island

Cities are also experiencing the effects of rising temperatures. “Cities like Amsterdam suffer from the heat island effect. This means that the temperature in urban areas is on average higher than the surrounding rural area,” Giezen said. One reason for this is the use of materials in cities such as asphalt and other dark materials that absorb solar radiation, causing the material and thus the city to heat up.

Mendel Giezen

According to Giezen, the solution lies in making cities greener. “Amsterdam is committed to making the city greener. The combination of trees and water is most effective for cooling the city, given the evaporation of water from canals and plants. One possibility is also to reopen canals in Amsterdam that have been filled in. In addition, a greener city provides an extra buffer against flooding during wet periods. Excessive water is absorbed by the greenery and stays there. This also reduces the burden on the sewer system,” says Giezen.


Finally, Giezen has tips for staying cool in the hot weather. “Seek out green spaces. Go to the Amsterdamse Bos, for example, or find a nice spot by the canal under a tree. Be sure to drink enough. Also pay attention to the elderly among us,” Giezen stresses. “The elderly have an extra hard time during hot periods, given their increased risk of dehydration.”