Urban heat island

An urban heat island (UHI) is an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities. The temperature difference usually is larger at night than during the day, and is most apparent when winds are weak. UHI is most noticeable during the summer and winter. The main cause of the urban heat island effect is from the modification of land surfaces.[1][2] Waste heat generated by energy usage is a secondary contributor.[3] As a population center grows, it tends to expand its area and increase its average temperature. The term heat island is also used; the term can be used to refer to any area that is relatively hotter than the surrounding, but generally refers to human-disturbed areas.[4]

Monthly rainfall is greater downwind of cities, partially due to the UHI. Increases in heat within urban centers increases the length of growing seasons, and decreases the occurrence of weak tornadoes. The UHI decreases air quality by increasing the production of pollutants such as ozone, and decreases water quality as warmer waters flow into area streams and put stress on their ecosystems.

Not all cities have a distinct urban heat island. Mitigation of the urban heat island effect can be accomplished through the use of green roofs and the use of lighter-colored surfaces in urban areas, which reflect more sunlight and absorb less heat.

Concerns have been raised about possible contribution from urban heat islands to global warming. While some lines of research did not detect a significant impact, other studies have concluded that heat islands can have measurable effects on climate phenomena at the global scale.

HeatIsland Kanto en
Tokyo, an example of an urban heat island. Normal temperatures of Tokyo go up higher than those of the surrounding area.


The phenomenon was first investigated and described by Luke Howard in the 1810s, although he was not the one to name the phenomenon.[5]


Newyork heat island
Thermal (top) and vegetation (bottom) locations around New York City via infrared satellite imagery. A comparison of the images shows that where vegetation is dense, temperatures are cooler.

There are several causes of an urban heat island (UHI); for example, dark surfaces absorb significantly more solar radiation, which causes urban concentrations of roads and buildings to heat more than suburban and rural areas during the day;[1] materials commonly used in urban areas for pavement and roofs, such as concrete and asphalt, have significantly different thermal bulk properties (including heat capacity and thermal conductivity) and surface radiative properties (albedo and emissivity) than the surrounding rural areas. This causes a change in the energy budget of the urban area, often leading to higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas.[6] Another major reason is the lack of evapotranspiration (for example, through lack of vegetation) in urban areas. The U.S. Forest Service found in 2018 that cities in the United States are losing 36 million trees each year.[7] With a decreased amount of vegetation, cities also lose the shade and evaporative cooling effect of trees.[8][9]

Other causes of a UHI are due to geometric effects. The tall buildings within many urban areas provide multiple surfaces for the reflection and absorption of sunlight, increasing the efficiency with which urban areas are heated. This is called the "urban canyon effect". Another effect of buildings is the blocking of wind, which also inhibits cooling by convection and prevents pollutants from dissipating. Waste heat from automobiles, air conditioning, industry, and other sources also contributes to the UHI.[3][10][11] High levels of pollution in urban areas can also increase the UHI, as many forms of pollution change the radiative properties of the atmosphere.[6] UHI not only raises urban temperatures but also increases ozone concentrations because ozone is a green house gas whose formation will accelerate with the increase of temperature.[12]

Some cities exhibit a heat island effect, largest at night. Seasonally, UHI shows up both in summer and winter.[13][14] The typical temperature difference is several degrees between the center of the city and surrounding fields. The difference in temperature between an inner city and its surrounding suburbs is frequently mentioned in weather reports, as in "68 °F (20 °C) downtown, 64 °F (18 °C) in the suburbs". "The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4 °F (1.0–3.0 °C) warmer than its surroundings. In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22 °F (12 °C)."[15]

The UHI can be defined as either the air temperature difference (the canopy UHI) or the surface temperature difference (surface UHI) between the urban and the rural area. These two show slightly different diurnal and seasonal variability and have different causes [16]

Diurnal behavior

The IPCC stated that "it is well-known that compared to non-urban areas urban heat islands raise night-time temperatures more than daytime temperatures."[17] For example, Barcelona, Spain is 0.2 °C (0.4 °F) cooler for daily maxima and 2.9 °C (5.2 °F) warmer for minima than a nearby rural station.[18] A description of the very first report of the UHI by Luke Howard in the late 1810s said that the urban center of London was warmer at night than the surrounding countryside by 3.7 °F (2.1 °C).[19] Though the warmer air temperature within the UHI is generally most apparent at night, urban heat islands exhibit significant and somewhat paradoxical diurnal behavior. The air temperature difference between the UHI and the surrounding environment is large at night and small during the day. The opposite is true for skin temperatures of the urban landscape within the UHI.[20]

Throughout the daytime, particularly when the skies are cloudless, urban surfaces are warmed by the absorption of solar radiation. Surfaces in the urban areas tend to warm faster than those of the surrounding rural areas. By virtue of their high heat capacities, urban surfaces act as a giant reservoir of heat energy. For example, concrete can hold roughly 2,000 times as much heat as an equivalent volume of air. As a result, the large daytime surface temperature within the UHI is easily seen via thermal remote sensing.[21] As is often the case with daytime heating, this warming also has the effect of generating convective winds within the urban boundary layer. It is theorized that, due to the atmospheric mixing that results, the air temperature perturbation within the UHI is generally minimal or nonexistent during the day, though the surface temperatures can reach extremely high levels.[22]

At night, the situation reverses. The absence of solar heating leads to the decrease of atmospheric convection and the stabilization of urban boundary layer. If enough stabilization occurs, an inversion layer is formed. This traps urban air near the surface, and keeping surface air warm from the still-warm urban surfaces, resulting in warmer nighttime air temperatures within the UHI. Other than the heat retention properties of urban areas, the nighttime maximum in urban canyons could also be due to the blocking of "sky view" during cooling: surfaces lose heat at night principally by radiation to the comparatively cool sky, and this is blocked by the buildings in an urban area. Radiative cooling is more dominant when wind speed is low and the sky is cloudless, and indeed the UHI is found to be largest at night in these conditions.[23]

Seasonal behavior

The urban heat island temperature difference is not only usually larger at night than during the day, but also larger in winter than in summer. This is especially true in areas where snow is common, as cities tend to hold snow for shorter periods of time than surrounding rural areas (this is due to the higher insulation capacity of cities, as well as human activities such as plowing). This decreases the albedo of the city and thereby magnifies the heating effect. Higher wind speeds in rural areas, particularly in winter, can also function to make them cooler than urban areas. Regions with distinct wet and dry seasons will exhibit a larger urban heat island effect during the dry season. The thermal time constant of moist soil is much higher than that of dry soil.[24] As a result, moist rural soils will cool slower than dry rural soils and act to minimize the nocturnal temperature difference between urban and rural regions.[25]


If a city or town has a good system of taking weather observations the UHI can be measured directly.[26] An alternative is to use a complex simulation of the location to calculate the UHI, or to use an approximate empirical method.[27][28] Such models allow the UHI to be included in estimates of future temperatures rises within cities due to climate change.

Leonard O. Myrup published the first comprehensive numerical treatment to predict the effects of the urban heat island (UHI) in 1969. His paper surveys UHI and criticizes then-existing theories as being excessively qualitative. A general purpose, numerical energy budget model is described and applied to the urban atmosphere. Calculations for several special cases as well as a sensitivity analysis are presented. The model is found to predict the correct order of magnitude of the urban temperature excess. The heat island effect is found to be the net result of several competing physical processes. In general, reduced evaporation in the city center and the thermal properties of the city building and paving materials are the dominant parameters. It is suggested that such a model could be used in engineering calculations to improve the climate of existing and future cities.[29]

Impact on animals

Ant colonies in urban heat islands have an increased heat tolerance at no cost to cold tolerance.[30]

Species that are good at colonizing can utilize conditions provided by urban heat islands to thrive in regions outside of their normal range. Examples of this include grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) and the common house gecko (Hemidactylus frenatus).[31] Grey-headed flying foxes, found in Melbourne, Australia, colonized urban habitats following increase in temperatures there. Increased temperatures, causing warmer winter conditions, made the city more similar in climate to the more northerly wildland habitat of the species.

With attempts to mitigate and manage urban heat islands, temperature changes and availability of food and water are reduced. With temperate climates, urban heat islands will extend the growing season, therefore altering breeding strategies of inhabiting species.[32] This can be seen the best in the effects that urban heat islands have on water temperature. With the temperature of the nearby buildings sometimes reaching over 50 degrees different from the near-surface air temperature, precipitation will warm rapidly, causing runoff into nearby streams, lakes and rivers (or other bodies of water) to provide excessive thermal pollution. The increase in the thermal pollution has the ability to increase water temperature by 20 to 30 degrees. This increase will cause the fish species inhabiting the body of water to undergo thermal stress and shock due to the rapid change in temperature to their climate.[33]

Urban heat islands caused by cities have altered the natural selection process.[34] Selective pressures like temporal variation in food, predation and water are relaxed causing for a new set of selective forces to roll out. For example, within urban habitats, insects are more abundant than in rural areas. Insects are ectotherms. This means that they depend on the temperature of the environment to control their body temperature, making for the warmer climates of the city perfect for their ability to thrive. A study done in Raleigh, North Carolina conducted on Parthenolecanium quercifex (oak scales), showed that this particular species preferred warmer climates and were therefore found in higher abundance in the urban habitats than on oak trees in rural habitats. Over time of living in urban habitats, they have adapted to thrive in warmer climates than in cooler.[35]

The presence of non-native species is heavily dependent on the amount of human activity.[36] An example of this can be seen in the populations of cliff swallows seen taking nests under the eaves of homes in urban habitats. They make their homes using the shelter provided by the humans in the upper regions of homes, allowing for an influx in their populations due to added protection and reduced predator numbers.

Other impacts on weather and climate

Aside from the effect on temperature, UHIs can produce secondary effects on local meteorology, including the altering of local wind patterns, the development of clouds and fog, the humidity, and the rates of precipitation.[37] The extra heat provided by the UHI leads to greater upward motion, which can induce additional shower and thunderstorm activity. In addition, the UHI creates during the day a local low pressure area where relatively moist air from its rural surroundings converges, possibly leading to more favorable conditions for cloud formation.[38] Rainfall rates downwind of cities are increased between 48% and 116%. Partly as a result of this warming, monthly rainfall is about 28% greater between 20 miles (32 km) to 40 miles (64 km) downwind of cities, compared with upwind.[39] Some cities show a total precipitation increase of 51%.[40]

Research has been done in a few areas suggesting that metropolitan areas are less susceptible to weak tornadoes due to the turbulent mixing caused by the warmth of the urban heat island.[41] Using satellite images, researchers discovered that city climates have a noticeable influence on plant growing seasons up to 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away from a city's edges. Growing seasons in 70 cities in eastern North America were about 15 days longer in urban areas compared to rural areas outside of a city's influence.[42]

Research in China indicates that urban heat island effect contributes to climate warming by about 30%.[43][44] On the other hand, one 1999 comparison between urban and rural areas proposed that urban heat island effects have little influence on global mean temperature trends.[45] One study concluded that cities change the climate in area 2–4 times larger than their own area.[46] Other suggested that urban heat islands affect global climate by impacting the jet stream.[47] Several studies have revealed increases in the severity of the effect of heat islands with the progress of climate change.[48]

Health effects

Atlanta thermal
Image of Atlanta, Georgia, showing temperature distribution, with blue showing cool temperatures, red warm, and hot areas appear white.

UHIs have the potential to directly influence the health and welfare of urban residents. Within the United States alone, an average of 1,000 people die each year due to extreme heat.[49] As UHIs are characterized by increased temperature, they can potentially increase the magnitude and duration of heat waves within cities. Research has found that the mortality rate during a heat wave increases exponentially with the maximum temperature,[50] an effect that is exacerbated by the UHI. The nighttime effect of UHIs can be particularly harmful during a heat wave, as it deprives urban residents of the cool relief found in rural areas during the night.[51]

Research in the United States suggests that the relationship between extreme temperature and mortality varies by location. Heat is more likely to increase the risk of mortality in cities in the northern part of the country than in the southern regions of the country. For example, when Chicago, Denver, or New York experience unusually hot summertime temperatures, elevated levels of illness and death are predicted. In contrast, parts of the country that are mild to hot year-round have a lower public health risk from excessive heat. Research shows that residents of southern cities, such as Miami, Tampa, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, tend to be acclimated to hot weather conditions and therefore less vulnerable to heat related deaths. However, as a whole, people in the United States appear to be adapting to hotter temperatures further north each decade. However, this might be due to better infrastructure, more modern building design, and better public awareness.[52]

Increased temperatures have been reported to cause heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, and heat cramps.[53] Some studies have also looked at how severe heat stroke can lead to permanent damage to organ systems.[53] This damage can increase the risk of early mortality because the damage can cause severe impairment in organ function.[53] Other complications of heat stroke include respiratory distress syndrome in adults and disseminated intravascular coagulation.[54] Some researchers have noted that any compromise to the human body's ability to thermoregulate would in theory increase risk of mortality.[53] This includes illnesses that may affect a person's mobility, awareness, or behavior.[53] Researchers[54] have noted that individuals with cognitive health issues (e.g. depression, dementia, Parkinson's disease) are more at risk when faced with high temperatures and "need to take extra care"[53] as cognitive performance has been shown to be differentially affected[55] by heat. People with diabetes,[53] are overweight,[54] have sleep deprivation,[54] or have cardiovascular/cerebrovascular conditions should avoid too much heat exposure.[53][54] Some common medications that have an effect on thermoregulation can also increase the risk of mortality. Specific examples include anticholinergics,[53] diuretics,[53] phenothiazines[54] and barbiturates.[54] Not only health, but heat can also affect behavior. A U.S. study suggests that heat can make people more irritable and aggressive, noting that violent crimes increased by 4.58 out of 100,000 for every one degree increase in temperature.[56]

A researcher found that high UHI intensity correlates with increased concentrations of air pollutants that gathered at night, which can affect the next day's air quality.[56] These pollutants include volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter.[54] The production of these pollutants combined with the higher temperatures in UHIs can quicken the production of ozone.[56] Ozone at surface level is considered to be a harmful pollutant.[56] Studies suggest that increased temperatures in UHIs can increase polluted days but also note that other factors (e.g. air pressure, cloud cover, wind speed) can also have an effect on pollution.[56]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it "is difficult to make valid projections of heat-related illness and death under varying climate change scenarios" and that "heat–related deaths are preventable, as evidenced by the decline of all-cause mortality during heat events over the past 35 years".[57] However, some studies suggest that the effects of UHIs on health may be disproportionate, since the impacts may be unevenly distributed based on a variety of factors such as age,[54][58] ethnicity and socioeconomic status[59]. This raises the possibility of health impacts from UHIs being an environmental justice issue.

Inequality of tree canopy cover

Relationship between neighborhood income and tree canopy cover

In recent years, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between neighborhood income and tree canopy cover. In 2010, researchers at Auburn University and University of Southern California found that the presence of trees are "highly responsive to changes in [neighborhood] income."[60] Low-income neighborhoods tend to have significantly fewer trees than neighborhoods with higher incomes. They described this unequal distribution of trees as a demand for "luxury," rather than "necessity."[61] According to the study, "for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent. But when income dropped by the same amount, demand decreased by 1.26 percent."[61]

Trees are a necessary feature in combating most of the urban heat island effect because they reduce air temperatures by 10 °F or 5.5 °C,[62] and surface temperatures by up to 20–45 °F or 11–25 °C.[63] Researchers hypothesized that less-well-off neighborhoods do not have the financial resources to plant and maintain trees. Affluent neighborhoods can afford more trees, on "both public and private property."[64] Part of this is also that wealthier homeowners and communities can afford more land, which can be kept open as green space, whereas poorer ones are often rentals, where landowners try to maximize their profit by putting as much density as possible on their land.

Additionally, many blogging sites overlay satellite imagery provided by Google Maps and census data to confirm or debunk the aforementioned research.[65]

Impact on nearby water bodies

UHIs also impair water quality. Hot pavement and rooftop surfaces transfer their excess heat to stormwater, which then drains into storm sewers and raises water temperatures as it is released into streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. Additionally, increased urban water body temperatures lead to a decrease in diversity in the water.[66] In August 2001, rains over Cedar Rapids, Iowa, led to a 10.5C (18.9F) rise in the nearby stream within one hour, which led to a fish kill. Since the temperature of the rain was comparatively cool, it could be attributed to the hot pavement of the city. Similar events have been documented across the American Midwest, as well as Oregon and California.[67] Rapid temperature changes can be stressful to aquatic ecosystems.[68] Permeable pavements may mitigate these effects by percolating water through the pavement into subsurface storage areas where it can be dissipate through absorption and evaporation.[69]

Impact on energy usage

NASA SLC Urban Heat Island Effect Roof
Images of Salt Lake City, Utah, show positive correlation between white reflective roofs and cooler temperatures. Image A depicts an aerial view of Salt Lake City, Utah, site of 865,000-square-foot (80,400 m2) white reflective roof. Image B is a thermal infrared image of same area, showing hot (red and yellow) and cool (green and blue) spots. The reflective vinyl roof, not absorbing solar radiation, is shown in blue surrounded by other hot spots.

Another consequence of urban heat islands is the increased energy required for air conditioning and refrigeration in cities that are in comparatively hot climates. The Heat Island Group estimates that the heat island effect costs Los Angeles about US$100 million per year in energy.[70] Conversely, those that are in cold climates such as Moscow, Russia would have less demand for heating. However, through the implementation of heat island reduction strategies, significant annual net energy savings have been calculated for northern locations such as Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Toronto.[71]


20080708 Chicago City Hall Green Roof
Green roof of City Hall in Chicago, Illinois.

The temperature difference between urban areas and the surrounding suburban or rural areas can be as much as 5 °C (9.0 °F). Nearly 40 percent of that increase is due to the prevalence of dark roofs, with the remainder coming from dark-colored pavement and the declining presence of vegetation. The heat island effect can be counteracted slightly by using white or reflective materials to build houses, roofs, pavements, and roads, thus increasing the overall albedo of the city.[72] Relative to remedying the other sources of the problem, replacing dark roofing requires the least amount of investment for the most immediate return. A cool roof made from a reflective material such as vinyl reflects at least 75 percent of the sun's rays, and emit at least 70 percent of the solar radiation absorbed by the building envelope. Asphalt built-up roofs (BUR), by comparison, reflect 6 percent to 26 percent of solar radiation.[73]

Using light-colored concrete has proven effective in reflecting up to 50% more light than asphalt and reducing ambient temperature.[74] A low albedo value, characteristic of black asphalt, absorbs a large percentage of solar heat creating warmer near-surface temperatures. Paving with light-colored concrete, in addition to replacing asphalt with light-colored concrete, communities may be able to lower average temperatures.[75] However, research into the interaction between reflective pavements and buildings has found that, unless the nearby buildings are fitted with reflective glass, solar radiation reflected off light-colored pavements can increase building temperatures, increasing air conditioning demands.[76][77]

A second option is to increase the amount of well-watered vegetation. These two options can be combined with the implementation of green roofs. Green roofs are excellent insulators during the warm weather months and the plants cool the surrounding environment. Air quality is improved as the plants absorb carbon dioxide with concomitant production of oxygen.[78] The city of New York determined that the cooling potential per area was highest for street trees, followed by living roofs, light covered surface, and open space planting. From the standpoint of cost effectiveness, light surfaces, light roofs, and curbside planting have lower costs per temperature reduction.[79]

A hypothetical "cool communities" program in Los Angeles has projected that urban temperatures could be reduced by approximately 3 °C (5 °F) after planting ten million trees, reroofing five million homes, and painting one-quarter of the roads at an estimated cost of US$1 billion, giving estimated annual benefits of US$170 million from reduced air-conditioning costs and US$360 million in smog related health savings.[80]

Mitigation strategies include:

  • White roofs: Painting rooftops white has become a common strategy to reduce the heat island effect.[81] In cities, there are many dark colored surfaces that absorb the heat of the sun in turn lowering the albedo of the city.[81] White rooftops allow high solar reflectance and high solar emittance, increasing the albedo of the city or area the effect is occurring.[81]
  • Green roofs: Green roofs are another method of decreasing the urban heat island effect. Green roofery is the practice of having vegetation on a roof; such as having trees or a garden. The plants that are on the roof increase the albedo and decreases the urban heat island effect.[81] This method has been studied and criticized for the fact that green roofs are affected by climatic conditions, green roof variables are hard to measure, and are very complex systems[81]
  • Planting trees in cities: Planting trees around the city can be another way of increasing albedo and decreasing the urban heat island effect. It is recommended to plant deciduous trees because they can provide many benefits such as more shade in the summer and not blocking warmth in winter.[82]
  • Green parking lots: Green parking lots use surfaces other than asphalt and vegetation to limit the impact urban heat island effect.

Mitigation policies, measures and other strategies

AB32 scoping plan

AB32 required the California Air Resources Board to create a scoping plan. This plan is California's approach on how to carry out their goal of combatting climate change by reducing greenhouse emissions by 2020 to levels from the 1990s. The scoping plan had four primary programs, advanced clean cars, cap and trade, renewables portfolio standard and low-carbon fuel standard all geared toward increased energy efficiency. The plan has main strategies to reduce green house gases such as having monetary incentives, regulations and voluntary actions. Every five years the scoping plan is updated.[83]

  • The advanced clean car rules program was made to reduce tail pipe emissions. The Air Resources Board approved the program to control emissions for newer models from the year 2017 to 2025. Some of their goals by 2025 are to have more environmentally superior cars to be available in different models and different types of cars. New automobiles will emit 34 percent fewer global warming gases and 75 percent fewer smog-forming emissions. And if fully implemented consumers can save an average of $6,000 over the life of the car.[84]
  • The renewable portfolio standard mandates to increase renewable energy from a variety of sources such as solar power and wind. Investor-owned utilities, community choice aggregators and electric service providers are required to increase procurement to 33% by 2020.[85]
  • Low carbon fuel standards is administered by the California Air Resources Board and attempts to make wider choice of cleaner fuels to Californians. Producers of petroleum-based fuels are required to reduce the carbon intensity of their products to 10 percent in 2020.[86]
  • Cap and trade is designed to reduce the effects of climate change by setting a cap on greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. The cap will decline approximately three percent each year in 2013. The trading will create incentives to reduce the effects of climate change in California communities by reducing greenhouse gases through investments in clean technologies.[87]

Clean Air Act

The EPA has initiated several air quality requirements that help reduce ground-level ozone that leads to urban heat islands. In the Clean Air Act, one of the EPA's chief policies, there are certain regulations that are put in place to ensure the state's emissions stay below a certain level. Included in the Clean Air Act, all states must set forth a State Implementation Plan (SIP) which is designed to guarantee all states meet a central air quality standard.[88]

State implementation plans and policies

  • The Emerging and Voluntary Measures Policy allows a state to add unconventional forms of heat island mitigation. This can include removing pollution after it has already been emitted into air, water, or soil. These measures are not implemented into law, but they do make it possible for certain parties to voluntarily become more efficient. The purpose of this policy is for all polluting sources to follow by example and use the most successful forms of mitigation.[89]
  • The Guidance on State Implementation Plan Credits for Emissions Reductions from Electric-Sector Energy Efficiency or Renewable Energy Measures is an educational tool for states to create an up-to-date and well-organized SIP. It allows states to include plans that meet the guidelines or plans that exceed expectations. Based on the success of their SIP, some states can have their plans incorporated into other SIPs.[90]
  • The Bundled Measures Policy authorizes different factions within the state to collaborate on mitigation projects. This policy takes a more of a community-based approach by adding several groups for the purpose of multiple perspectives and inventive approaches. The Bundled Measures Policy is one method that generates co-benefits for both parties.[91] In example, if a partaking business were to add cool roofs, there will be a reduction in greenhouse gases which is beneficial for the environment as well as the need for excess energy which is beneficial for the business.

Implementation of policies

The Seattle Green Factor, a multifaceted system for urban landscaping, has seen much success in the mitigation of urban heat islands. The program focuses on areas that are prone to high pollution, such as business districts. There are strict guidelines for any new construction that exceeds roughly 20 parking spaces, and this platform helps developers physically see their levels of pollution while trying different methods of construction to figure out the most effective course of action. Seattle has correspondingly produced a "score sheet" for cities to use in their city planning.[88]

AB32 and urban heat islands

  • Urban heat islands increase demand for energy consumption during the summer when temperatures rise. As a result of increased energy consumption, there is an increase in air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. This policy focuses on lowering greenhouse emissions, which contributes to lowering the heat island effect.[92]

EPA Compendium of Strategies

This compendium focuses on a variety of issues dealing with urban heat islands. They describe how urban heat islands are created, who is affected, and how people can make a difference to reduce temperature. It also shows examples of policies and voluntary actions by state and local governments to reduce the effect of urban heat islands[93]


  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and the Sacramento Tree Foundation have partnered to provide the city of Sacramento shade trees for free. The program allows citizens to receive trees from four to seven feet tall. They also give them fertilizer, and delivery, all at no cost. They encourage citizens to plant their trees to benefit their home by reducing air conditioning costs. Approximately more than 450,000 shade trees have been planted in the Sacramento area.[94]
  • The Eco-Roof Incentive Program: In Canada, grants are distributed throughout Toronto for installing green and cool roofs on residential and commercial buildings. This will reduce usage of energy and lower green house gas emissions.[95]
  • Tree vitalize: This program is a partnership with multiple entities that focuses on helping restore tree cover in the city, it also educates citizens about the positive effects of trees on climate change and the urban heat island effect. And another goal they have is to build capacity among local governments to understand, protect and restore their urban trees. Because there is a need for educating citizens about the maintenance of trees, Treevitalize provides nine hours of classroom and field training to community residents. The classes cover a variety of topics such as tree identification, pruning, tree biology, and proper species selection.[96]


U.S. Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program helps low income recipients by covering their heating bills and helping the families to make their homes energy efficient. In addition, this program allows states to also use the funds to install cooling efficiency measures such as shading devices.[96]

Outreach and education

  • Tree Utah: a statewide non-profit organization is dedicated to educating communities about the environmental and social benefits provided by trees. They are also committed to planting thousands of trees throughout the state of Utah.[97]
  • The Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley has a high-school level course called Global Systems Science. The course focuses on a variety of topics including climate change and the greenhouse effect.[98]

Tree protection ordinances

  • A variety of local governments have implemented tree and landscape ordinances, which will help communities by providing shade during summer. Tree protection is an ordinance that does not allow someone to prune or remove trees without a city permit. An example is the city of Glendale, California: Through the Indigenous Tree Ordinance, the city of Glendale protects the following species of trees, the California sycamore, the coast live oak, mesa oak, valley oak, scrub oak, California bay. Anyone who is planning on removing or trimming the trees has to obtain an indigenous tree permit. Within the permit they have to provide detailed information about the number of trees affected, trunk diameter and the health of the tree itself. They also have to submit photographs of the site, and a site plan sketch.[99]
  • Another example is the city of Berkeley, California. The tree protection ordinance prohibits the removal of coast live oak trees and any excessive pruning that can cause harm to the tree is also prohibited. The only exception is if the tree is poses a danger to life or limb and danger to the property.[100]
  • The city of Visalia, California, has implemented a street tree ordinance intended to promote and regulate the planting, maintenance, and protection of street trees within the city. Their ordinance does not allow street trees to be altered, pruned or removed. Street trees are also protected during construction.[101]

Co-benefits of mitigation strategies

Trees and gardens aid mental health

  • A large percentage of people who live in urban areas have access to parks and gardens in their areas, which are probably the only connections they have with nature. A study shows that having contact with nature helps promote our health and well-being. People who had access to gardens or parks were found to be healthier than those who did not.[102]
  • Another study done investigating whether or not the viewing of natural scenery may influence the recoveries of people from undergoing surgeries, found that people who had a window with a scenic view had shorter postoperative hospital stays and fewer negative comments from nurses.[103]

Tree planting as empowerment and community building

  • Los Angeles TreePeople, is an example of how tree planting can empower a community. Tree people provides the opportunity for people to come together, build capacity, community pride and the opportunity to collaborate and network with each other.[104]

Green roofs as food production

Green roofs and wildlife biodiversity

  • Green roofs are important for wildlife because they allow organisms to inhabit the new garden. To maximize opportunities to attract wildlife to a green roof, one must aid the garden to be as diverse as possible in the plants that are added. By planting a wide array of plants, different kinds of invertebrate species will be able to colonize, they will be provided with foraging sources and habitat opportunities.[105]

Urban forests and a cleaner atmosphere

  • Trees provide benefits such as absorbing carbon dioxide, and other pollutants.[106] Trees also provide shade and reduce ozone emissions from vehicles. By having many trees, we can cool the city heat by approximately 10 degrees to 20 degrees, which will help reducing ozone and helping communities that are mostly affected by the effects of climate change and urban heat islands.[107]

Green building programs

Voluntary green building programs have been promoting the mitigation of the heat island effect for years.[108] For example, one of the ways for a site to earn points under the US Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System is to take action that reduces heat islands, minimizing impacts on microclimates and human and wildlife habitats. Credits associated with reflective roofing or planted roofs can help a building achieve LEED certification. Buildings also receive credits by providing shade.[109] Similarly, The Green Building Initiative (GBI)'s Green Globes program awards points to sites that take measures to decrease a building's energy consumption and reduce the heat island effect. As many as 10 points may be awarded to sites with roof coverage from vegetation, highly reflective materials, or a combination of the two.[110]

Cost analysis

Every year in the U.S. 15% of energy goes towards the air conditioning of buildings in these urban heat islands. According to Rosenfeld et al., "the air conditioning demand has risen 10% within the last 40 years."[111] Home and business owners alike can benefit from building a cool community. A decrease in energy usage directly correlates to cost efficiency. Areas with substantial vegetation and reflective surface materials used for roofs of houses, pavement, and roads are proven to be more effective and cost efficient.

In a case study of the Los Angeles Basin, simulations showed that even when trees are not strategically placed in these urban heat islands, they can still aid in minimization of pollutants and energy reduction. It is estimated that with this wide-scale implementation, the city of Los Angeles can annually save $100M with most of the savings coming from cool roofs, lighter colored pavement, and the planting of trees. With a citywide implementation, added benefits from the lowering smog-level would result in at least one billion dollars of saving per year.[111]

The cost efficiency of green roofs is quite high because of several reasons. According to Carter, "A conventional roof is estimated to be $83.78/m2 while a green roof was estimated at $158.82/m2."[112] For one, green roofs have over double the lifespan of a conventional roof, effectively decelerating the amount of roof replacements every year. In addition to roof-life, green roofs add stormwater management reducing fees for utilities. The cost for green roofs is more in the beginning, but over a period of time, their efficiency provides financial as well as health benefits.

In Capital E Analysis' conclusions of the financial benefits of green buildings, it was determined that green roofs successfully lowered energy usage and raised health benefits. For every square foot of green roof used in one study the savings amounted to $5.80 energy-wise. There were also savings seen in the emissions, water, and maintenance categories. Overall, the savings amounted to $52.90–$71.30 on average while the cost of going green totaled -$3.00–$5.00.[113]

Global warming

Because some parts of some cities may be hotter than their surroundings, concerns have been raised that the effects of urban sprawl might be misinterpreted as an increase in global temperature. Such effects are removed by homogenization from the raw climate record by comparing urban stations with surrounding stations. While the "heat island" warming is an important local effect, there is no evidence that it biases trends in the homogenized historical temperature record. For example, urban and rural trends are very similar.[17]

The Third Assessment Report from the IPCC says:

However, over the Northern Hemisphere land areas where urban heat islands are most apparent, both the trends of lower-tropospheric temperature and surface air temperature show no significant differences. In fact, the lower-tropospheric temperatures warm at a slightly greater rate over North America (about 0.28°C/decade using satellite data) than do the surface temperatures (0.27°C/decade), although again the difference is not statistically significant.[17]

Ground temperature measurements, like most weather observations, are logged by location. Their siting predates the massive sprawl, roadbuilding programs, and high- and medium-rise expansions which contribute to the UHI. More importantly, station logs allow sites in question to be filtered easily from data sets. Doing so, the presence of heat islands is visible, but overall trends change in magnitude, not direction. The effects of the urban heat island may be overstated. One study stated, "Contrary to generally accepted wisdom, no statistically significant impact of urbanization could be found in annual temperatures." This was done by using satellite-based night-light detection of urban areas, and more thorough homogenisation of the time series (with corrections, for example, for the tendency of surrounding rural stations to be slightly higher in elevation, and thus cooler, than urban areas). If its conclusion is accepted, then it is necessary to "unravel the mystery of how a global temperature time series created partly from urban in situ stations could show no contamination from urban warming." The main conclusion is that microscale and local-scale impacts dominate the mesoscale impact of the urban heat island. Many sections of towns may be warmer than rural sites, but surface weather observations are likely to be made in park "cool islands."[114]

Not all cities show a warming relative to their rural surroundings. After trends were adjusted in urban weather stations around the world to match rural stations in their regions, in an effort to homogenise the temperature record, in 42 percent of cases, cities were getting cooler relative to their surroundings rather than warmer. One reason is that urban areas are heterogeneous, and weather stations are often sited in "cool islands" – parks, for example – within urban areas.[115]

Studies in 2004 and 2006 attempted to test the urban heat island theory, by comparing temperature readings taken on calm nights with those taken on windy nights.[116][117] If the urban heat island theory is correct then instruments should have recorded a bigger temperature rise for calm nights than for windy ones, because wind blows excess heat away from cities and away from the measuring instruments. There was no difference between the calm and windy nights, and one study said that "we show that, globally, temperatures over land have risen as much on windy nights as on calm nights, indicating that the observed overall warming is not a consequence of urban development."[118][119]

A view often held by those who reject the evidence for global warming is that much of the temperature increase seen in land based thermometers could be due to an increase in urbanization and the siting of measurement stations in urban areas.[119] For example, Ross McKitrick and Patrick J. Michaels conducted a statistical study of surface-temperature data regressed against socioeconomic indicators, and concluded that about half of the observed warming trend (for 1979–2002) could be accounted for by the residual UHI effects in the corrected temperature data set they studied—which had already been processed to remove the (modeled) UHI contribution.[120][121] Critics of this paper, including Gavin A. Schmidt,[122] have said the results can be explained away as an artifact of spatial autocorrelation. McKittrick and Nicolas Nierenberg stated further that "the evidence for contamination of climatic data is robust across numerous data sets."[123]

The preliminary results of an independent assessment carried out by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group, and made available to the public in October 2011, found that among other scientific concerns raised by skeptics, the urban heat island effect did not bias the results obtained by NOAA, the Hadley Centre and NASA's GISS. The Berkeley Earth group also confirmed that over the past 50 years the land surface warmed by 0.911 °C, and their results closely matched those obtained from earlier studies.[124][125][126][127][128]

Climate Change 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report from the IPCC states the following.

Studies that have looked at hemispheric and global scales conclude that any urban-related trend is an order of magnitude smaller than decadal and longer time-scale trends evident in the series (e.g., Jones et al., 1990; Peterson et al., 1999). This result could partly be attributed to the omission from the gridded data set of a small number of sites (<1%) with clear urban-related warming trends. In a worldwide set of about 270 stations, Parker (2004, 2006) noted that warming trends in night minimum temperatures over the period 1950 to 2000 were not enhanced on calm nights, which would be the time most likely to be affected by urban warming. Thus, the global land warming trend discussed is very unlikely to be influenced significantly by increasing urbanisation (Parker, 2006). ... Accordingly, this assessment adds the same level of urban warming uncertainty as in the TAR: 0.006°C per decade since 1900 for land, and 0.002°C per decade since 1900 for blended land with ocean, as ocean UHI is zero.[129]

A 2014 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America looks at the potential of large-scale urban adaptation to counteract the effects of long-term global climate change. The researchers calculate that without any adaptive urban design, by 2100 the expansion of existing U.S. cities into regional megalopolises could raise near-surface temperatures between 1 and 2 degrees Celsius over large regions, "a significant fraction of the 21st-century greenhouse gas-induced climate change simulated by global climate models." Large-scale adaptive design could completely offset this increase, however. For example, the temperature increase in California was calculated to be as high as 1.31 degrees Celsius, but a 100% deployment of "cool roofs" would result in a temperature drop of 1.47 degrees Celsius—more than the increase.[130]

Urban cold island

Ironically, the same urban area that is hotter in the day, can be colder than surrounding rural areas at ground level at night, leading to a new term urban cold island. Snow cover in rural areas, for example, insulates plants. This was an unexpected discovery when studying the response of plants to urban environments.[131] The urban cold island effect takes place in the early morning because the building within cities block the sun's solar radiation, as well as the wind speed within the urban centre. Both the urban heat island and urban cold island effects are most intense at times of stable meteorological conditions. [132]

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Further reading

  • Arnfield, A. John (1 January 2003). "Two decades of urban climate research: a review of turbulence, exchanges of energy and water, and the urban heat island". International Journal of Climatology. 23 (1): 1–26. Bibcode:2003IJCli..23....1A. doi:10.1002/joc.859.
  • Gartland, Lisa (2008). Heat islands: understanding and mitigating heat in urban areas. London: Earthscan. ISBN 9781844072507.
  • P. D. Jones; P.Y. Groisman; M. Coughlan; N. Plummer; W.-C. Wang; T.R. Karl (1990). "Assessment of urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land". Nature. 347 (6289): 169–172. Bibcode:1990Natur.347..169J. doi:10.1038/347169a0.
  • Helmut E. Landsberg (1981). The Urban Climate. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-435960-4.
  • J. Khodakarami; M.Hatami (2016). Heat Island: A New Variable In Architecture and Urbanism. Tehran, In Persian: Fekreno Book.

External links

Berkeley Earth

Berkeley Earth is a Berkeley, California based independent 501(c)(3) non-profit focused on land temperature data analysis for climate science. Berkeley Earth was founded in early 2010 (originally called the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project) with the goal of addressing the major concerns from outside the scientific community regarding global warming and the instrumental temperature record. The project's stated aim was a "transparent approach, based on data analysis." In February 2013, Berkeley Earth became an independent non-profit. In August 2013, Berkeley Earth was granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the US government. The primary product is air temperatures over land, but they also produce a global dataset resulting from a merge of their land data with HadSST.

Berkeley Earth founder Richard A. Muller told The Guardian

...we are bringing the spirit of science back to a subject that has become too argumentative and too contentious, ....we are an independent, non-political, non-partisan group. We will gather the data, do the analysis, present the results and make all of it available. There will be no spin, whatever we find. We are doing this because it is the most important project in the world today. Nothing else comes close.

Berkeley Earth has been funded by unrestricted educational grants totaling (as of December 2013) about $1,394,500. Large donors include Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Fund for Innovative Climate and Energy Research (FICER), and the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation. The donors have no control over how Berkeley Earth conducts the research or what they publish.The team's preliminary findings, data sets and programs were published beginning in December 2012. The study addressed scientific concerns including urban heat island effect, poor station quality, and the risk of data selection bias. The Berkeley Earth group concluded that the warming trend is real, that over the past 50 years (between the decades of the 1950s and 2000s) the land surface warmed by 0.91±0.05 °C, and their results mirror those obtained from earlier studies carried out by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Hadley Centre, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) Surface Temperature Analysis, and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The study also found that the urban heat island effect and poor station quality did not bias the results obtained from these earlier studies.

Carfree city

A car-free city or carfree city is a population center that relies primarily on public transport, walking, or cycling for transport within the urban area. Carfree cities greatly reduce petroleum dependency, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, automobile crashes, noise pollution, urban heat island effect and traffic congestion. Some cities have one or more districts where motorized vehicles are prohibited, referred to as car-free zones. Many older cities in Europe, Asia, and Africa were founded centuries before the advent of the automobile, and some continue to have carfree areas in the oldest parts of the city -- especially in areas where it is impossible for cars to fit, e.g., in narrow alleys.

Chippendale, New South Wales

Chippendale is a small inner-city suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on the southern edge of the Sydney central business district, in the local government area of the City of Sydney. Chippendale is located between Broadway to the north and Cleveland Street to the south, Sydney Central railway station to the east and the University of Sydney to the west.

Climate of London

London, the capital of England and largest city in the United Kingdom, has a temperate oceanic climate, with warm summers and cool winters. While the city annually has modest precipitation, there are long periods of overcast skies and frequent light mist-type precipitation, which may account for the rainy image of the city.

Within the current boundaries of Greater London, the coldest temperature ever recorded was −16.1 °C (3.0 °F) at Northolt in January 1962, and the highest temperature ever recorded was 38.1 °C (100.6 °F), recorded at Kew Gardens during the European Heat Wave of 2003. London averages about 1600 hours of sunshine annually. London's large built-up area creates a microclimate (an "urban heat island"), with heat stored by the city's buildings. Sometimes temperatures are 5 °C (9 °F) warmer in the city than in the surrounding areas. The urban heat island effect creates a microclimate in inner London, as seen in the London weather centre climate table below which features a bordering humid subtropical climate (according to the Trewartha climate classification), compared to the other climate tables below with a cooler oceanic climate.

Climate of Milwaukee

Milwaukee has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfa), with four distinct seasons and wide variations in temperature and precipitation in short periods of time. The city's climate is also strongly influenced by nearby Lake Michigan, which creates two varying climates within the Milwaukee area. The Urban heat island effect also plays a role in the city's climate, insulating it from winter cold, but keeping it cooler in spring and summer.

Climate of Minneapolis–Saint Paul

The climate of Minneapolis–Saint Paul is the long term weather trends and historical events of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area in east central Minnesota. Minneapolis and St. Paul, together known as the Twin Cities, are the core of the 15th largest metropolitan area in the United States. With a population of 3.6 million people, the region contains approximately 60% of the population of Minnesota. Due to its location in the northern and central portion of the U.S., the Twin Cities has the coldest average temperature of any major metropolitan area in the nation. Winters can be cold, summer is warm to hot and frequently humid, snowfall is common in the winter and thunderstorms with heavy rainfall occur during the spring, summer and autumn. Though winter can be cold, the area receives more sunlight hours in mid-winter than many other warmer parts of the country, including all of the Great Lakes states, the Pacific Northwest, parts of the South, and almost all of the Northeast. Unless otherwise indicated, all normals data presented below are based on data at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, the official Twin Cities climatology station, from the 1981−2010 normals period.

Environmental impact of concrete

The environmental impact of concrete, its manufacture and applications, are complex. Some effects are harmful; others welcome. Many depend on circumstances. A major component of concrete is cement, which has its own environmental and social impacts and contributes largely to those of concrete.

The cement industry is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Concrete causes damage to the most fertile layer of the earth, the topsoil.

Concrete is used to create hard surfaces which contribute to surface runoff that may cause soil erosion, water pollution and flooding. Conversely, concrete is one of the most powerful tools for proper flood control, by means of damming, diversion, and deflection of flood waters, mud flows, and the like. Light-colored concrete can reduce the urban heat island effect, due to its higher albedo. Concrete dust released by building demolition and natural disasters can be a major source of dangerous air pollution. The presence of some substances in concrete, including useful and unwanted additives, can cause health concerns due to toxicity and (usually naturally occurring) radioactivity. Wet concrete is highly alkaline and should always be handled with proper protective equipment. Concrete recycling is increasing in response to improved environmental awareness, legislation, and economic considerations. Conversely, the use of concrete mitigates the use of alternative building materials such as wood, which is a carbon sink. Concrete structures also last much longer than wood structures.

List of environmental issues

This is an alphabetical list of environmental issues, harmful aspects of human activity on the biophysical environment. They are loosely divided into causes, effects and mitigation, noting that effects are interconnected and can cause new effects.

List of environmental organisations topics

This is a list of topics on which environmental organizations focus.


Agricultural pollution


Animal husbandry


Biodynamic farming



Genetically modified foods


Organic farming

PermacultureHarmful substances in farming

Air quality

Acid rain

Air pollution


Criteria pollutants

Fossil fuels

Photochemical smog

Indoor Air Quality

Industrial pollution

Ozone depletion

Pollution prevention

Transport and the environment

Climate change

Global warming

Greenhouse effect

Urban heat island effect


Coastal ecosystems

Coral reefs







Rivers, Lakes and Stream s



Alternative fuels


Energy conservation

Efficient energy use

Fossil fuel

Fuel cells

Geothermal energy

Hydroelectric energy

Nuclear power

Solar energy

Wind energy

Environmental disasters

Chemical spills





Nuclear and radiation accidents

Oil spills



Environmental economics

Economic development

Free trade


Environmental education

Environmental studies

Outdoor Education

Environmental ethics

Deep ecology


Religion and environmentalism

Social Ecology

Environmental legislation and environmental policy

Environmental justice

Environmental politics

Environmental regulation




Forest management

Old growth



Sustainable forestry

Ground pollution


Industrial pollution


Pollution prevention

Resource extraction

Soil quality

Habitat conservation

Marine conservationNational parksPollution

Public lands

Resource extraction

Wilderness areas

Human health






Drinking water


Food quality

Genetically modified foods


Light pollution

Mercury poisoning

Multiple chemical sensitivity

Noise pollution

Occupational safety and health






Natural history

Environmental history





Coastal ecosystems

Coral Reefs


Marine biology


Outdoor recreation


Bird watching


Snowsports/Ice sports

Water sports





Atmospheric sciences












Social sciences and humanities


Ethnic diversity

Indigenous cultures

World cultures

Sustainable business

Alternative fuels

Corporate accountability

Economic development


Energy conservation

Green building

Pollution prevention

Social investing

Sustainable technology

Waste reduction

Water conservation

Sustainable development

Economic development

Sustainable agriculture

Sustainable forestry

Sustainable technology

Sustainable living


Green building

Home maintenance

Organic gardening

Social investing

Sustainable transport


Alternative fuel vehicles


Mass transit


Urban issues

Light pollution

Noise pollution



Urban heat island effect

Urban planning





Lacto vegetarianism

Waste management



Environmental remediation

Hazardous and toxic waste


Nuclear Waste


Water quality


Drinking water


Industrial pollution

Pollution prevention

Water conservation

Water pollution

Water treatment




Conservation biology

Endangered species



Invasive species

Native plants


Wildlife conservation

Wildlife sanctuaries


A microclimate is a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding areas, often with a slight difference but sometimes with a substantial one. The term may refer to areas as small as a few square meters or square feet (for example a garden bed or a cave) or as large as many square kilometers or square miles. Because climate is statistical, which implies spatial and temporal variation of the mean values of the describing parameters, within a region there can occur and persist over time sets of statistically distinct conditions, that is, microclimates. Microclimates can be found in most places.

Microclimates exist, for example, near bodies of water which may cool the local atmosphere, or in heavy urban areas where brick, concrete, and asphalt absorb the sun's energy, heat up, and re-radiate that heat to the ambient air: the resulting urban heat island is a kind of microclimate.

Another contributing factor of microclimate is the slope or aspect of an area. South-facing slopes in the Northern Hemisphere and north-facing slopes in the Southern Hemisphere are exposed to more direct sunlight than opposite slopes and are therefore warmer for longer periods of time, giving the slope a warmer microclimate than the areas around the slope. The lowest area of a glen may sometimes frost sooner or harder than a nearby spot uphill, because cold air sinks, a drying breeze may not reach the lowest bottom, and humidity lingers and precipitates, then freezes.

Oasis effect

The oasis effect refers to the creation of a local microclimate that is cooler than the surrounding dry area due to evaporation or evapotranspiration of a water source or plant life and higher albedo of plant life than bare ground. The oasis effect is so-named because it occurs in desert oases. Urban planners can design a city's layout to optimize the oasis effect to combat the urban heat island effect. Since it depends on evaporation, the oasis effect differs by season.

Reflective surfaces (climate engineering)

Reflective surfaces can deliver high solar reflectance (the ability to reflect the visible, infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths of the sun, reducing heat transfer to the surface) and high thermal emittance (the ability to radiate absorbed, or non-reflected, solar energy). Reflective surfaces are a form of geoengineering.

The most well-known type of reflective surface is the "cool roof". While cool roofs are mostly associated with white roofs, they come in a variety of colors and materials and are available for both commercial and residential buildings. Today's cool roof pigments allow metal roofing products to be EnergyStar rated in dark colors, even black.

Solar reflective cars or cool cars reflect more sunlight than dark cars, reducing the amount of heat that is transmitted into the car’s interior. Therefore, it helps decrease the need for air conditioning, fuel consumption, and emissions of greenhouse gases and urban air pollutants.Cool color parking lots are parking lots made with a reflective layer of paint. Cool pavements which are designed to reflect solar radiation may use modified mixes, reflective coatings, permeable pavements, and vegetated pavements.

Urban climate

The climate in urban areas differs from that in neighboring rural areas, as a result of urban development. Urbanization greatly changes the form of the landscape, and also produces changes in an area's air.

In 1950 Åke Sundborg published one of the first theories on the climate of cities.

Urban climatology

Urban climatology refers to a specific branch of climatology that is concerned with interactions between urban areas and the atmosphere, the effects they have on one another, and the varying spatial and temporal scales at which these processes (and responses) occur.

Urban dust dome

Urban dust domes are a meteorological phenomenon in which soot, dust, and chemical emissions become trapped in the air above urban spaces. This trapping is a product of local air circulations. Calm surface winds are drawn to urban centers, they then rise above the city and descend slowly on the periphery of the developed core. This cycle is often a cause of smog through photochemical reactions that occur when strong concentrations of the pollutants in this cycle are exposed to solar radiation. These are one result of urban heat islands: pollutants concentrate in a dust dome because convection lifts pollutants into the air, where they remain because of somewhat stable air masses produced by the urban heat island.

The urban heat island which causes a city to heat up, caps the dust and other particulates at a low level in the atmosphere. If there is not a strong enough wind, then this dome that is created remains intact and causes that heated up air within the urban heat island. Though if the wind does blow strong enough, then this dome is blown downwind causing it to move out of the city.

Urban ecology

Urban ecology is the scientific study of the relation of living organisms with each other and their surroundings in the context of an urban environment. The urban environment refers to environments dominated by high-density residential and commercial buildings, paved surfaces, and other urban-related factors that create a unique landscape dissimilar to most previously studied environments in the field of ecology.Urban ecology is a recent field of study compared to ecology as a whole. The methods and studies of urban ecology are similar to and comprise a subset of ecology. The study of urban ecology carries increasing importance because more than 50% of the world's population today lives in urban areas. At the same time, it is estimated that within the next forty years, two-thirds of the world's population will be living in expanding urban centers. The ecological processes in the urban environment are comparable to those outside the urban context. However, the types of urban habitats and the species that inhabit them are poorly documented. Often, explanations for phenomena examined in the urban setting as well as predicting changes because of urbanization are the center for scientific research.

Urban forest

An urban forest is a forest or a collection of trees that grow within a city, town or a suburb. In a wider sense it may include any kind of woody plant vegetation growing in and around human settlements. In a narrower sense (also called forest park) it describes areas whose ecosystems are inherited from wilderness leftovers or remnants. Care and management of urban forests is called urban forestry. Urban forests may be publicly-owned municipal forests, but the latter may also be located outside of the town or city to which they belong.

Urban forests play an important role in ecology of human habitats in many ways: they filter air, water, sunlight, provide shelter to animals and recreational area for people. They moderate local climate, slowing wind and stormwater, and shading homes and businesses to conserve energy. They are critical in cooling the urban heat island effect, thus potentially reducing the number of unhealthful ozone days that plague major cities in peak summer months.

In many countries there is a growing understanding of the importance of the natural ecology in urban forests. There are numerous projects underway aimed at restoration and preservation of ecosystems, ranging from simple elimination of leaf-raking and elimination of invasive plants to full-blown reintroduction of original species and riparian ecosystems.

Some sources claim that the largest man-made urban forest in the world is located in Johannesburg in South Africa.But others claim that this could be a myth. Tijuca Forest, in Rio de Janeiro, has also been considered to be the largest one.

Urban thermal plume

An urban thermal plume describes rising air in the lower altitudes of the Earth's atmosphere caused by urban areas being warmer than surrounding areas. Over the past thirty years there has been increasing interest in what have been called urban heat island (UHI), but it is only since 2007 that thought has been given to the rising columns of warm air, or ‘thermal plumes’ that they produce. We are all familiar with on-shore breezes at the seaside on a warm day, and off-shore breezes at night. These are caused by the land heating up faster on a sunny day and cooling faster after sunset, respectively. Our personal experience of on-shore breezes shows us that the thermals, or warm airs, that rise from the land and sea respectively have a sensible effect on the local microscale meteorology; and perhaps at times on the mesometeorology. Urban thermal plumes have as powerful although less localized an effect.

London is generally 3 to 9 Celsius hotter than the Home Counties. London’s meteorological aberrations were first studied by Luke Howard, FRS in the 1810s, but the notion that this large warm area would produce a significant urban thermal plume was not seriously proposed until very recently.

Microscale thermal plumes, whose diameters may be measured in tens of metres, such as those produced by industrial chimney stacks, have been extensively investigated, but largely from the point of view of the plumes dispersal by local micrometeorology. Though their velocity is generally less, their very much greater magnitude (diameter) means that urban thermal plumes will have a more significant effect upon the mesometeorology and even continental macrometeorology.

Waste heat

Waste heat is heat that is produced by a machine, or other process that uses energy, as a byproduct of doing work. All such processes give off some waste heat as a fundamental result of the laws of thermodynamics. Waste heat has lower utility (or in thermodynamics lexicon a lower exergy or higher entropy) than the original energy source. Sources of waste heat include all manner of human activities, natural systems, and all organisms, for example, a refrigerator warms the room air, an internal combustion engine generates high-temperature exhaust gases, and electronic components get warm when in operation.

Instead of being "wasted" by release into the ambient environment, sometimes waste heat (or cold) can be utilized by another process (such as using hot engine coolant to heat a vehicle), or a portion of heat that would otherwise be wasted can be reused in the same process if make-up heat is added to the system (as with heat recovery ventilation in a building).

Thermal energy storage, which includes technologies both for short- and long-term retention of heat or cold, can create or improve the utility of waste heat (or cold). One example is waste heat from air conditioning machinery stored in a buffer tank to aid in night time heating. Another is seasonal thermal energy storage (STES) at a foundry in Sweden. The heat is stored in the bedrock surrounding a cluster of heat exchanger equipped boreholes, and is used for space heating in an adjacent factory as needed, even months later. An example of using STES to utilize natural waste heat is the Drake Landing Solar Community in Alberta, Canada, which, by using a cluster of boreholes in bedrock for interseasonal heat storage, obtains 97 percent of its year-round heat from solar thermal collectors on the garage roofs. Another STES application is storing winter cold underground, for summer air conditioning.On a biological scale, all organisms reject waste heat as part of their metabolic processes, and will die if the ambient temperature is too high to allow this.

Anthropogenic waste heat is thought by some to contribute to the urban heat island effect. The biggest point sources of waste heat originate from machines (such as electrical generators or industrial processes, such as steel or glass production) and heat loss through building envelopes. The burning of transport fuels is a major contribution to waste heat.

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