Research ArticleATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

Urban heat island: Aerodynamics or imperviousness?

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Science Advances  03 Apr 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 4, eaau4299
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau4299

Abstract

More than half of the world’s population now live in cities, which are known to be heat islands. While daytime urban heat islands (UHIs) are traditionally thought to be the consequence of less evaporative cooling in cities, recent work sparks new debate, showing that geographic variations of daytime UHI intensity were largely explained by variations in the efficiency with which urban and rural areas convect heat from the land surface to the lower atmosphere. Here, we reconcile this debate by demonstrating that the difference between the recent finding and the traditional paradigm can be explained by the difference in the attribution methods. Using a new attribution method, we find that spatial variations of daytime UHI intensity are more controlled by variations in the capacity of urban and rural areas to evaporate water, suggesting that strategies enhancing the evaporation capability such as green infrastructure are effective ways to mitigate urban heat.

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