A digital twin of Darwin to monitor and navigate change

Project Duration: July 2021 – December 2023 

There is a wealth of social, economic, and environmental information that could be used more effectively for decision making if brought together. By integrating information into a digital twin visualisation tool, decision makers will be able to investigate the benefits, trade-offs and opportunities of urban planning scenarios, monitor past actions, and identify pathways to a more liveable and climate-resilient city. 

What does the digital twin do? 

The CSIRO-led Darwin Living Lab (DLL) is developing a virtual model of Darwin, i.e., a digital twin. This will enable city managers such as the City of Darwin to monitor change in key indicators (e.g. canopy cover, temperature and air quality), and test the impact of changes in asset management and scenarios of urban development. The initial application of the digital twin involves evaluating the economic value and return on investments of cooling and greening initiatives, specifically around increasing and maintaining Darwin’s urban forest. The digital twin currently allows investigation of urban vegetation impacts on land surface temperatures at a much finer resolution than previously possible.  

How does the digital twin work? 

From existing data, the team generated high-resolution (10 cm) maps of the presence, area, condition, volume, and height of urban vegetation (e.g., trees, shrubs and grass), impervious surfaces (e.g., buildings, roads), and bare ground and water for the years 2011, 2016, and 2021. This information, coupled with local tree inventory data about species composition and condition was used to quantify and value the stocks and flows of ecosystem services provided by urban vegetation based on the international System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) framework. The team has mapped land surface temperature and modelled heat distribution patterns against several built and natural urban features. This information was then combined with socioeconomic and demographic data to estimate heat-health vulnerability risks at the neighbourhood scale. Hotspot neighbourhoods were identified where heat-related health risk was high and adaptive capacity low. 

What’s next? 

The team will continue to work with local stakeholders, including the Northern Territory Government and the City of Darwin, and research partners to increase the data access and analytical capability of the Darwin digital twin.   

Dr Sorada Tapsuwan

Project Leader