Department of Geoecology
Assoc. Prof. Anna Kowalska
(2012-01-01 - 2022-12-31)
The impact of weather and climate on human health, and effects of extreme weather phenomena on human
For several decades, thermal comfort studies have been the leading research direction of climatologists from IGSO PAS as a part of their statutory activities and research projects. In frames of this topic, analyses of the human heat balance were carried out and the MENEX model of heat exchange between humans and the environment was developed. The BioKlima 2.6 application derived from it, is now commonly used to calculate all components of the human heat balance and biothermal indices (i.e. PET, UTCI), also many other biometeorological, bioclimatic and thermophysiological indices. We analyze the impact of weather conditions (including heat waves or cold spells) on morbidity and mortality (in collaboration with physicians and medical statisticians). We conduct also an assessment of Poland's bioclimate since the mid-twentieth century and forecast its changes in the context of the observed global trends. In our research, we also take into account air pollution, which plays an important role in viral infections spread and aggravation of civilization diseases symptoms. In addition, we conduct research on the perception of the thermal environment and subjective assessment of thermal comfort by city residents.
Climatic conditions of the functioning and development of the cities and living conditions in the city
Research on urban climate, and in particular on urban heat island phenomenon (UHI) was initiated at IGSO PAS in 1990. At the beginning of the 21st century, the UHI monitoring network was established in Warsaw, which at the peak of its operation in 2011-2012 included 28 fixed, automatic points of air temperature measurement. The projects implemented so far concerned not only the entire agglomeration, but also individual housing estates, and they resulted in many scientific articles and book chapters, as well as the monograph, in which the dependence of the size and intensity of UHI on urban factors (including land use and development or the share of biologically active areas) was presented. Ways to counteract this phenomenon have also been developed and the necessary adaptation measures have been proposed to the city authorities. In addition, in cooperation with doctors from the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Łódź, pioneering analyses of the allergenicity of the green areas within housing estates were carried out. The analyses of the city's climate currently conducted in our Department are the basis for the studies used by the Warsaw City Hall in spatial planning. An interesting, recently undertaken issue is the light pollution of Warsaw. Furthermore, since 2022 a project regarding the impact of the size and structure of city parks on the climate of Warsaw has been implemented.
Climate impact on tourism
We have been dealing with the issue of climatic and bioclimatic conditioning of tourism and recreation at IGSO PAS for over 20 years, which resulted in the monograph publication in 2004, which at that time constituted a compendium of knowledge on the assessment methods of biometeorological conditions for the needs of tourism. The weather typology developed in our Department and the WSI index are still used in Poland in assessing the suitability of weather for various forms of recreation. Currently, we are also trying to apply the adjusted UTCI (Universal Thermal Climate Index) to assess the bioclimatic conditions for the needs of various types of tourist and sports activities.
Climatic basis of spa treatment
This study direction was started at IGSO PAS as early as 1950, as a part of research on the local climate in Polish health resorts. In addition to many articles published over the years in Wiadomości Uzdrowiskowe, Problemy Uzdrowiskowe and Balneologia Polska (currently Acta Balneologica), 2 monographs were prepared, which included detailed descriptions of all statutory health resorts bioclimatic conditions and an assessment of the healing potential of Polish climate. Many years of experience in examining the prophylactic properties of the climate of health resorts resulted in obtaining by IGSO PAS in 2007 the authorization to issue to municipalities certificates confirming the healing properties of the climate on the basis of the conducted research. Since then, about 75 studies of the healing properties of the climate of health resorts and localities applying for the health resort status have been carried out. While studying the healing potential of the climate, we use developed in the Department, original criteria for assessing individual elements of the climate. This research topic is of high practical value. Thanks to these studies, the communes retained the possibility of running a health resort and took a number of remedial measures proposed by us, in order to improve air quality or to reduce exposure to noise.
Climate and mountain, peatland and forest ecosystems
Our team has extensive experience in examining the microclimatic conditions of various ecosystems, mainly mountain, forest and peatlands. Research on the climate of mountain ecosystems has been conducted at IGSO PAS for over 50 years, and the base for them is a field station located at Hala Gąsienicowa in the Tatra Mountains. Expeditionary research was also carried out in various mountain ranges in Poland and other countries (e.g. in Bulgaria and Mongolia), which made it possible to determine the relationship between mountain bioclimatic conditions and plant communities, as well as the conditionings for high-mountain tourism. As part of cooperation with Polish and foreign scientific units, we also develop research on the functioning of peatland ecosystems. We study the relationships between abiotic elements (e.g. climate, hydrology, chemistry) and biotic parameters using both a monitoring and an experimental approach. Since 2006, we have been carrying out hydrometeorological monitoring at the Linje mire (53°11′14″N 18°18′35″E). We also study the microclimates diversity of peatlands and forests as well as the their variability in edge zones. The results of the research have implications, both for palaeo-environmental interpretations and for the management of peatland ecosystems.
These studies were initiated at IGSO PAS in the 1950s by prof. Janusz Paszyński. By analysing the heat balance of the active surface, a widely used topoclimatic mapping method was developed, which initiated the so-called Polish topoclimatological school. In the following years, the methodology of mapping bioclimatic units was developed, based on the analysis of the human heat balance components, as well as the concept of topoclimatic mapping of Poland in a smaller scale, with the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Our topoclimatic research constitutes basis for the valorisation of areas from the point of view of various practical needs, including spatial development and climatotherapy. Currently, we focus mostly on the local climate diversification analyses of existing or potential health resorts and their surroundings.