Roles of Urban Tree Canopy and Buildings in Urban Heat Island Effects: Parameterization and Preliminary Results

Christopher P. Loughner Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Dale J. Allen Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Da-Lin Zhang Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Kenneth E. Pickering NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

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Russell R. Dickerson Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Laura Landry Maryland Department of the Environment, Baltimore, Maryland

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Abstract

Urban heat island (UHI) effects can strengthen heat waves and air pollution episodes. In this study, the dampening impact of urban trees on the UHI during an extreme heat wave in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, metropolitan area is examined by incorporating trees, soil, and grass into the coupled Weather Research and Forecasting model and an urban canopy model (WRF-UCM). By parameterizing the effects of these natural surfaces alongside roadways and buildings, the modified WRF-UCM is used to investigate how urban trees, soil, and grass dampen the UHI. The modified model was run with 50% tree cover over urban roads and a 10% decrease in the width of urban streets to make space for soil and grass alongside the roads and buildings. Results show that, averaged over all urban areas, the added vegetation decreases surface air temperature in urban street canyons by 4.1 K and road-surface and building-wall temperatures by 15.4 and 8.9 K, respectively, as a result of tree shading and evapotranspiration. These temperature changes propagate downwind and alter the temperature gradient associated with the Chesapeake Bay breeze and, therefore, alter the strength of the bay breeze. The impact of building height on the UHI shows that decreasing commercial building heights by 8 m and residential building heights by 2.5 m results in up to 0.4-K higher daytime surface and near-surface air temperatures because of less building shading and up to 1.2-K lower nighttime temperatures because of less longwave radiative trapping in urban street canyons.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Christopher P. Loughner, Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 614, Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: christopher.p.loughner@nasa.gov

Abstract

Urban heat island (UHI) effects can strengthen heat waves and air pollution episodes. In this study, the dampening impact of urban trees on the UHI during an extreme heat wave in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland, metropolitan area is examined by incorporating trees, soil, and grass into the coupled Weather Research and Forecasting model and an urban canopy model (WRF-UCM). By parameterizing the effects of these natural surfaces alongside roadways and buildings, the modified WRF-UCM is used to investigate how urban trees, soil, and grass dampen the UHI. The modified model was run with 50% tree cover over urban roads and a 10% decrease in the width of urban streets to make space for soil and grass alongside the roads and buildings. Results show that, averaged over all urban areas, the added vegetation decreases surface air temperature in urban street canyons by 4.1 K and road-surface and building-wall temperatures by 15.4 and 8.9 K, respectively, as a result of tree shading and evapotranspiration. These temperature changes propagate downwind and alter the temperature gradient associated with the Chesapeake Bay breeze and, therefore, alter the strength of the bay breeze. The impact of building height on the UHI shows that decreasing commercial building heights by 8 m and residential building heights by 2.5 m results in up to 0.4-K higher daytime surface and near-surface air temperatures because of less building shading and up to 1.2-K lower nighttime temperatures because of less longwave radiative trapping in urban street canyons.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Christopher P. Loughner, Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 614, Greenbelt, MD 20771. E-mail: christopher.p.loughner@nasa.gov
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