Determinants of changes in the regional urban heat island in metropolitan Phoenix (Arizona, USA) between 1990 and 2004

Anthony Brazel, Patricia Gober, Seung Jae Lee, Susanne Grossman-Clarke, Joseph Zehnder, Brent Hedquist, Erin Comparri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


We investigated the spatial and temporal variation in June mean minimum temperatures for weather stations in and around metropolitan Phoenix, USA, for the period 1990 to 2004. Temperature was related to synoptic conditions, location in urban development zones (DZs), and the pace of housing construction in a 1 km buffer around fixed-point temperature stations. June is typically clear and calm, and dominated by a dry, tropical air mass with little change in minimum temperature from day to day. However, a dry, moderate weather type accounted for a large portion of the inter-annual variability in mean monthly minimum temperature. Significant temperature variation was explained by surface effects captured by the type of urban DZ, which ranged from urban core and infill sites, to desert and agricultural fringe locations, to exurban. An overall spatial urban effect, derived from the June monthly mean minimum temperature, is in the order of 2 to 4 K. The cumulative housing build-up around weather sites in the region was significant and resulted in average increases of 1.4 K per 1000 home completions, with a standard error of 0.4 K. Overall, minimum temperatures were spatially and temporally accounted for by variations in weather type, type of urban DZ (higher in core and infill), and the number of home completions over the period. Results compare favorably with the magnitude of heating by residential development cited by researchers using differing methodologies in other urban areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalClimate Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 22 2007


  • Housing development
  • Land use change
  • Phoenix
  • Statistical approach
  • Urban fringe
  • Urban heat island

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science


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