Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 98, Issue 3–4, pp 209–220 | Cite as

Thermal bioclimate in Strasbourg - the 2003 heat wave

  • Andreas Matzarakis
  • Manuela De Rocco
  • Georges Najjar
Original Paper


This case study highlights the implications of the 2003 heat wave for the city of Strasbourg, France. The urban centers of France and other European countries were particularly affected by the heat wave. In some urban areas, the mortality rate was 60% above the expected value (Institute de Veille Sanitaire, 2003). The 2003 heat wave demonstrated once again that populations in urban centers are much more affected by extreme meteorological events than people living in rural areas. The aim of this analysis is to explore differences in thermal comfort conditions of (a) the city center of Strasbourg, and (b) its hinterland. The differences in thermal conditions existing between rural and urban areas are quantified by using a bio-climatological index termed physiologically equivalent temperature (PET). This index is based on the human energy balance and builds a relevant index for the quantification of the thermal environment of humans. We calculate the PET for the years 2003 and 2004 to highlight the temporal changes in the severity of climate extremes. The spatial scope of this study is improved compared to previous works in the field through the inclusion of PET calculations for five different sites on a central place in Strasbourg (Place Kléber). The calculations are characterized by different sky view factors and are compared to the reference site, which is located in a rural area. In the rural hinterland (Entzheim), the analysis of PET indicates a strong cold thermal stress during the winter months but no significant stress in summer. In 2003, summer temperatures were sensed as warmer compared to other years, but did not reach the extreme temperatures that may cause severe heat stress. For both the rural and the urban study sites PET was higher in the summer of 2003 than in 2004, which reflects the inferior thermal conditions in the urban area during the heat wave in 2003. For the entire study period, urban and rural day-time PET reached similar maximal values. Strong differences in PET, however, were observed between the rural and urban areas at night-time. The study of PET for several study sites on a central place in the city (Place Kléber) of Strasbourg for the years 2003 and 2004 showed that the sites with a higher sky view factor present higher values than sites with a lower sky view factor. The comparison of these PET values (Place Kléber) to the results for the rural area showed that during the day and the night the rural city of Entzheim has the lowest PET. During the day, the site at Place Kléber, which is located under a tree, has the lowest PET. The comparison of PET for the years 2003 and 2004 shows that PET in 2003 was about 5 to 7 K higher.


Thermal Stress Heat Wave Thermal Comfort Urban Heat Island Physiologically Equivalent Temperature 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Matzarakis
    • 1
  • Manuela De Rocco
    • 2
  • Georges Najjar
    • 3
  1. 1.Meteorological InstituteUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.MondercangeLuxemburg
  3. 3.Faculté de GéographieUniversité Louis PasteurStrasbourgFrance

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