Monitoring the Urban Heat Island Effect and the Efficacy of Future Countermeasures

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To relate fine-scale spatial air-temperature variations in local urban heat islands and urban cool islands—increases and decreases in outside air temperature—within a large urban-climate archipelago to variations in land-use and land-cover properties in the Los Angeles Basin, the research team sought to (a) use fine-resolution meso-urban climate models to identify areas of urban heat and cool islands, select sites for fixed weather monitoring, and choose routes for mobile observations; (b) relate observed intraurban temperature variations to land use and land cover and surface physical properties; and (c) calibrate/validate the climate models. The research team assessed urban temperature variations via simulations and observations, including mobile transects, mesonet, dense networks of personal weather stations, and sparse but more accurate research-grade monitors. To identify the causative factors of the urban heat and cool islands at the neighborhood scale, the research team collected detailed urban morphometric and land use and land cover datasets, such as 1-meter (3.3 foot) resolution roof albedo (solar reflectance) and tree canopy cover. The research team used the observationvalidated model to finalize the transect routes and site the stationary monitors.

This study provides the first observational evidence from analysis of high-spatial-density weather stations that increases in roof albedo at neighborhood scale are associated with reductions in near-surface air temperature. This finding was corroborated with the analysis from mobile transect measurements and correlation of observed air temperature with neighborhood-scale albedo and vegetation. This correlation revealed a cooling effect from areawide increase in albedo or canopy cover or both.

The calibrated meteorological model accurately identified the localized urban heat and cool islands observed in this study. Interested stakeholders/researchers can use the same models and calibration/validation methodology to characterize within-city microclimate variations elsewhere in California, and can apply them to analyze the benefits from using urban heat island countermeasures.

This project report is an extended and more detailed version of a related report prepared for California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment.

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