Satellite identification of atmospheric-surface-subsurface urban heat islands under clear sky

Fan Huang, Wenfeng Zhan, Zhi Hua Wang, James Voogt, Leiqiu Hu, Jinling Quan, Chun Liu, Ning Zhang, Jiameng Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The urban heat island (UHI) is a major topic in the study of urban climates. However, comprehensive research on the atmospheric UHI (UHIAtm), surface UHI (UHISurf), and subsurface UHI (UHISub) simultaneously has yet not been reported. Using the MODIS land surface temperature and atmospheric profile data during the 2010–2016 period, we investigated the diurnal, seasonal, and vertical variations of UHIAtm, UHISurf, and UHISub in Beijing. The major findings include but are not limited to the following: As the altitude increases from 1000 hPa (near the surface) to 700 hPa (~3 km), the daytime UHIAtm intensity in summer decreases piecewise linearly with a rapid decline above 850 hPa (~1.5 km), while in spring and autumn it decreases after a slight increase in the lower atmosphere. The nighttime UHIAtm intensity decreases approximately linearly in all seasons with a rapid (gradual) decline in winter (summer). As the depth increases from the surface to ~0.2 m, the daytime intensity from UHISurf to UHISub decreases in summer but increases in the other seasons, while the nighttime trends are opposite to the daytime ones. The diurnal (seasonal) variation of UHISub intensity converges to the daily (annual) mean as the depth reaches ~0.5 m (10 m). These new findings have theoretical and practical implications for in-depth understanding of the urban thermal environment from the boundary layer to the subsurface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112039
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Atmospheric temperature
  • Land surface temperature
  • Subsurface temperature
  • Urban heat island

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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