The Birmingham Urban Climate Laboratory: an open meteorological test bed and challenges of the smart city

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


External organisations

  • University of Reading, Department of Meteorology
  • Earley Gate
  • University of Reading


The Birmingham Urban Climate Laboratory (BUCL) is a near-real-time, high-resolution urban meteorological network (UMN) of automatic weather stations and inexpensive, nonstandard air temperature sensors. The network has recently been implemented with an initial focus on monitoring urban heat, infrastructure, and health applications. A number of UMNs exist worldwide; however, BUCL is novel in its density, the low-cost nature of the sensors, and the use of proprietary Wi-Fi networks. This paper provides an overview of the logistical aspects of implementing a UMN test bed at such a density, including selecting appropriate urban sites; testing and calibrating low-cost, nonstandard equipment; implementing strict quality-assurance/quality-control mechanisms (including metadata); and utilizing preexisting Wi-Fi networks to transmit data. Also included are visualizations of data collected by the network, including data from the July 2013 U.K. heatwave as well as highlighting potential applications. The paper is an open invitation to use the facility as a test bed for evaluating models and/or other nonstandard observation techniques such as those generated via crowdsourcing techniques.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1545-1560
Number of pages16
JournalBulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Issue number9
Early online date11 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015