Urban Heat Island

Surface temperature (top) and vegetation coverage (bottom) in New York City. NASA Earth Observatory.

The frequency and duration of extreme heat waves are projected to continue to increase in urban areas throughout the world, leading to higher risks of heat related deaths. Increasing urban canopy is a key strategy for mitigating excess urban heat by creating a cooling microclimate via shading and evapotranspiration (transpiration + evaporation). Even though transpiration rates are known to vary by tree species, climatic conditions, and nutrient availability current models of the urban heat island effect assume that the cooling effects from vegetation are the same across planting locations and tree species. Using combination of empirical field studies and modeling approaches, this study will build the basic understanding needed to advance UHI models, increasing their utility for informing policy decisions on climate change action plans in cities. [Pardee Center Research Award: Hutyra, Li, & Templer]