Environmental cooling provided by urban trees under extreme heat and cold waves in U.S. cities

Chenghao Wang, Zhihua Wang, Chuyuan Wang, Soe Myint

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Global urbanization drastically reshapes the land–atmosphere interactions, biogeochemical cycles, and ecosystems in the integrated earth system. Urban trees are used extensively for providing desirable ecosystem services, especially to mitigate elevated thermal stress in cities. Urban trees differ markedly from their natural counterparts in the physiology due to their close interactions with anthropogenic stressors. Here we present the cooling capacity of urban trees in response to thermal extremes in cities of the contiguous United States. The cooling capacity is quantified as the surface cooling rate, which is expressed as the negative ratio of land surface temperature (LST) changes to fractional tree cover (FTC) changes, i.e., –ΔLST/ΔFTC. Results show that the surface cooling rate is dominated by plant transpiration up to 1.336 °C per percentage of FTC in heat waves; its temperature dependence remarkably resembles the thermodynamic liquid-water-vapor equilibrium. Urban trees also exert pseudo cooling effect in cold waves in contrast to the anthropogenic heat emission. The average surface cooling rate in cold waves is 0.022 °C per percentage of FTC, which is much smaller than that in heat waves (0.202 °C per percentage of FTC). The enhanced cooling capacity of urban trees will enable their provision of better ecosystem services to the urban environment for projected future increase of extreme heat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-43
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019


  • Clausius–Clapeyron relation
  • Cold waves
  • Heat waves
  • Pseudo cooling
  • Surface cooling rate
  • Urban trees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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