Time Evolution of the Surface Urban Heat Island

I. D. Stewart, E. S. Krayenhoff, J. A. Voogt, J. A. Lachapelle, M. A. Allen, A. M. Broadbent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Atmospheric and surface urban heat islands (UHI) originate from common energetic processes, but the status of scientific knowledge on their time evolution is highly disparate. The diurnal cycles of atmospheric UHI are well known based on years of continuous measurements in cities; the cycles of surface UHI, however, cannot be measured continuously or in situ. In this article, we aim to reconcile these differences. We begin with a synthesis of previous work on the diurnal evolution of surface UHI, which leads to a novel but historically minded approach to the research problem. The approach involves a combination of microscale and mesoscale urban climate models, each of which is forced with universally described urban and rural surface parameters and atmospheric profiles. With these models, we produce theoretical time-temperature curves for the surface UHI that are comparable to the classic curves of atmospheric UHI. This work prompts a critical look at the use of satellite thermal imagery to assess heat islands and heat risks in cities. To that end, we recommend new and more functional definitions of surface temperature. Conceptually, these represent “incomplete” temperatures defined by specific facets of the urban environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021EF002178
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • diurnal temperature cycle
  • thermal remote sensing
  • urban climate models
  • urban heat island

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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