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CR 33:171-182 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/cr033171

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

Anthony Brazel1,*, Patricia Gober1,2, Seung-Jae Lee2, Susanne Grossman-Clarke3, Joseph Zehnder1,3,4, Brent Hedquist1, Erin Comparri2

1School of Geographical Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-0104, USA
2Decision Center for a Desert City, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-8209, USA
3Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-3211, USA
4Department of Mathematics, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-0104, USA

ABSTRACT: 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.

KEY WORDS: Urban heat island · Phoenix · Land use change · Urban fringe · Housing development · Statistical approach

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