Designing sensor networks to resolve spatiooral urban temperature variations: Fixed, mobile or hybrid?

Jiachuan Yang, Elie Bou-Zeid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The spatiooral variability of temperatures in cities impacts human well-being, particularly in a large metropolis. Low-cost sensors now allow the observation of urban temperatures at a much finer resolution, and, in recent years, there has been a proliferation of fixed and mobile monitoring networks. However, how to design such networks to maximize the information content of collected data remains an open challenge. In this study, we investigate the performance of different measurement networks and strategies by deploying virtual sensors to sample the temperature data set in high-resolution weather simulations in four American cities. Results show that, with proper designs and a sufficient number of sensors, fixed networks can capture the spatiooral variations of temperatures within the cities reasonably well. Based on the simulation study, the key to optimizing fixed sensor location is to capture the whole range of impervious fractions. Randomly moving mobile systems consistently outperform optimized fixed systems in measuring the trend of monthly mean temperatures, but they underperform in detecting mean daily maximum temperatures with errors up to 5 °C. For both networks, the grand challenge is to capture anomalous temperatures under extreme events of short duration, such as heat waves. Here, we show that hybrid networks are more robust systems under extreme events, reducing errors by more than 50%, because the time span of extreme events detected by fixed sensors and the spatial information measured by mobile sensors can complement each other. The main conclusion of this study concerns the importance of optimizing network design for enhancing the effectiveness of urban measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number074022
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 12 2019
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • Meteorological measurement
  • sensor network optimization
  • urban heat island
  • urban monitoring network


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