Thermal sensation and climate: a comparison of UTCI and PET thresholds in different climates


The influence of physiological acclimatization and psychological adaptation on thermal perception is well documented and has revealed the importance of thermal experience and expectation in the evaluation of environmental stimuli. Seasonal patterns of thermal perception have been studied, and calibrated thermal indices’ scales have been proposed to obtain meaningful interpretations of thermal sensation indices in different climate regions. The current work attempts to quantify the contribution of climate to the long-term thermal adaptation by examining the relationship between climate normal annual air temperature (1971–2000) and such climate-calibrated thermal indices’ assessment scales. The thermal sensation ranges of two thermal indices, the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) and the Physiological Equivalent Temperature Index (PET), were calibrated for three warm temperate climate contexts (Cfa, Cfb, Csa), against the subjective evaluation of the thermal environment indicated by interviewees during field surveys conducted at seven European cities: Athens (GR), Thessaloniki (GR), Milan (IT), Fribourg (CH), Kassel (DE), Cambridge (UK), and Sheffield (UK), under the same research protocol. Then, calibrated scales for other climate contexts were added from the literature, and the relationship between the respective scales’ thresholds and climate normal annual air temperature was examined. To maintain the maximum possible comparability, three methods were applied for the calibration, namely linear, ordinal, and probit regression. The results indicated that the calibrated UTCI and PET thresholds increase with the climate normal annual air temperature of the survey city. To investigate further climates, we also included in the analysis results of previous studies presenting only thresholds for neutral thermal sensation. The average increase of the respective thresholds in the case of neutral thermal sensation was about 0.6 °C for each 1 °C increase of the normal annual air temperature for both indices, statistically significant only for PET though.

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Change history

  • 18 December 2019

    The article was published without special issue designation resulting in regular issue compilation. The author group and publisher regret the error and ask the article be considered for Special Issue: Subjective approaches to thermal perception.

  • 18 December 2019

    The article was published without special issue designation resulting in regular issue compilation. The author group and publisher regret the error and ask the article be considered for Special Issue: Subjective approaches to thermal perception.


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This research project was implemented within the ΙΚΥ Scholarship Programs in the context of the action “Strengthening Post-Doctoral Research” of the Human Resources Development Program, Education and Lifelong Learning, co-financed by the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Greek government.

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Correspondence to Katerina Pantavou.

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Pantavou, K., Lykoudis, S., Nikolopoulou, M. et al. Thermal sensation and climate: a comparison of UTCI and PET thresholds in different climates. Int J Biometeorol 62, 1695–1708 (2018) doi:10.1007/s00484-018-1569-4

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  • Climate
  • Thermal sensation
  • Assessment scales
  • PET
  • UTCI