This research evaluates the climatic summertime representation of the diurnal cycle of near-surface temperature using the Weather Research and Forecasting System (WRF) over the rapidly urbanizing and water-vulnerable Phoenix metropolitan area. A suite of monthly, high-resolution (2 km grid spacing) simulations are conducted during the month of July with both a contemporary landscape and a hypothetical presettlement scenario. WRF demonstrates excellent agreement in the representation of the daily to monthly diurnal cycle of near-surface temperatures, including the accurate simulation of maximum daytime temperature timing. Thermal sensitivity to anthropogenic land use and land cover change (LULCC), assessed via replacement of the modern-day landscape with natural shrubland, is small on the regional scale. The WRF-simulated characterization of the diurnal cycle, supported by previous observational analyses, illustrates two distinct and opposing impacts on the urbanized diurnal cycle of the Phoenix metro area, with evening and nighttime warming partially offset by daytime cooling. The simulated nighttime urban heat island (UHI) over this semiarid urban complex is explained by well-known mechanisms (slow release of heat from within the urban fabric stored during daytime and increased emission of longwave radiation from the urban canopy toward the surface). During daylight hours, the limited vegetation and dry semidesert region surrounding metro Phoenix warms at greater rates than the urban complex. Although prior work has suggested that daytime temperatures are lower within the urban complex owing to the addition of residential and agricultural irrigation (i.e., "oasis effect") we show that modification of Phoenix's surrounding environment to a biome more representative of temperate regions eliminates the daytime urban cooling. Our results indicate that surrounding environmental conditions, including land cover and availability of soil moisture, play a principal role in establishing the nature and evolution of the diurnal cycle of near-surface temperature for the greater Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area relative to its rural and undeveloped counterpart.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD24113
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number24
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Forestry
  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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