Communicating urban climate problems with storytelling and Web GIS

Storytelling is not only for entertainment – it is essential for all forms of communication. This is especially true when communicating scientific results. Storytelling forces the brain to absorb and remember information. Without the story, the science may not stick. Web GIS is a way to tell stories with the help of maps, useful for communicating urban climate problems.

Air pollution and urban heat are two critical climate-related problems in cities across the globe. To address these issues, scientists are collecting and analysing data that generates new knowledge on these threats using high-resolution modelling and remote sensing tools. By analysing these data and performing model simulations, scientists can develop “what if” scenarios forming the basis for solutions to mitigate these threats.  Researchers from the Nansen Center have been working in this field for many years. They have shown that some parts of Bergen, Norway, have higher levels of air pollution and higher temperatures than others, even under similar weather conditions.  Despite efforts by city authorities to improve urban air quality in Bergen, more work is needed to address the issue. However, correct and effective communication of scientific evidence is critical to turning research results into tangible solutions for policymakers, and the public to accept and to implement.

A recent study by Nansen Center researchers in the EU project TURBAN (“Turbulent-resolving urban modeling of air quality and thermal comfort”) has shown that web GIS and storytelling can make complex scientific results more accessible and engaging to stakeholders, leading to urgent and necessary change in urban areas. The study led by Victoria Miles focused on air quality and urban heat issues in our own city Bergen. Building upon many years of research focusing on the local meteorology and lower parts of the air in the city, this publication highlights the pressing need to address invisible threats such as air pollution and heat build-up in urban areas exacerbated by climate change. The study underscores the critical role of effective communication in translating scientific findings into practical knowledge and ideas that will enable politicians, stakeholders and the public to stimulate and accept adequate and immediate action.

The study shows how innovative communication strategies such as web GIS and storytelling can positively impact the perception of urban environments. Victoria Miles and her colleagues also introduce the Web GIS platform they developed for Bergen. It is more than just a scientific tool, since it allows users to better understand the problems, assess risks, and identify the solutions.

In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of effective science dissemination to address urban climate issues. We can use Web GIS and storytelling to make complex scientific findings more accessible and engage stakeholders, leading to positive changes in our own city.

Key researchers: Victoria Miles, Igor Esau, Lasse H. Pettersson

The Web GIS platform

Here you can explore the platform yourself and learn about Bergen’s air quality and thermal comfort within the city.

Our research on air quality in Bergen

Researchers at the Nansen Center have for multiple years studied air quality in Bergen. The team uses a street-level meter-resolution model to capture how pollution moves around the city. They use satellite remote sensing data, geographic information systems, and urban modelling to improve the available knowledge on how to improve air quality and thermal comfort in cities.

The TURBAN project

Extreme weather events such as long heat waves or cold spells reduce comfortable temperatures in cities worldwide. In conjunction with increasing air pollution, life in cities is becoming more difficult. Modeling the air conditions in cities is therefore becoming more important and the project “Turbulent-resolving urban modeling of air quality and thermal control” is working on developing suitable methods. Visit the project website here.


Sustainable Development:

“Using web GIS to promote stakeholder understanding of scientific results in sustainable urban development: A case study in Bergen, Norway”